My friend Pierre Atlas is a political science professor who teaches at Marian University, where he directs the Richard Lugar Franciscan Center for Global Studies. He is also a lifetime member of the NRA–and if survey research is to be believed, his attitudes are far more representative of rank-and-file NRA members than the lunatic positions taken by that organization’s leadership–not to mention, their “bought and paid for” Senators and Congresspersons.
Pierre writes a periodic column for the Indianapolis Star, and in his most recent one, listed a number of realistic, reasonable steps we could take to curb gun violence.
He began the column by recognizing the practical difficulty of simply eliminating AR-15s.
Some people want to ban AR-15 platform rifles. But even if this could pass constitutional muster, given that the AR-15 is possibly the most popular rifle in America and there are millions of them in circulation, doing so would be politically and logistically difficult, if not impossible. On the other side, we hear the standard refrain, “Now is not the time to talk about guns,” or “this is not about guns, it’s about mental health.”
Clearly, this shooter — who I will not name — had serious problems and telegraphed his violent intent on social media. But he didn’t commit his crime with a butter knife.
Pierre writes that America has a gun problem, and that it is always the right time to talk about it. He then offers a beginning prescription:
In addition to enforcing all the laws already on the books, here are 10 practical, pragmatic things Congress or state legislatures can and should do now, which I believe most Americans, including most gun owners, would support:
•Universal background checks
•Mandatory reporting of stolen guns
•Prohibit gun purchases for people on the no fly list
•Allow the Centers for Disease Control to collect and analyze gun violence data
•Ban the manufacture, sale and possession of bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic full-automatics
•Require safety training for all carry permits
•Mandate that a purchaser of any firearm, rifle as well as handgun, must be 21
•With court orders and due process, remove guns from homes in cases of domestic violence or openly stated threats to others
In addition to these eight items, Congress should hold hearings with expert testimony to explore legislation addressing the following controversial issues: Reporting of potentially violent mental health cases and the building of a data base; and regulating social media content for threats of violence.
With 300 million guns in American homes, we aren’t going to enforce wholesale bans on categories of weapons, even if such approaches were constitutionally and politically feasible. But the only impediment to proceeding on the basis of Pierre’s list is political will; these steps are clearly both constitutional and practical.
The items on this list all address the stupidity of excessive solicitude for the tender sensibilities of the gun lobby, but two in particular are aimed at policies that have long infuriated me: the ban on CDC funding for research on gun violence, and allowing people on the no-fly list to buy guns.
Evidently, people too dangerous to allow on a plane aren’t too dangerous to arm.
But it is the refusal to fund research that is particularly telling. Talk about legislation that “sends a message”! The message is, “We don’t want data. We suspect we know what that research might find, so we aren’t going to allow it. No evidence-based policy for us!”
These are sensible, “do-able” measures. Let’s make them happen. And then let’s work on changing the culture than has convinced fearful folks to amass personal arsenals.