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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,072
April 28, 2021
The Need for Gun Control
By Mike McManus

Gun availability is at a crisis point.

Between 1994 and 2004 there was a federal ban on the purchase of assault weapons. The result was an estimated 70% reduction in mass shootings. Then Sen. Joe Biden was a sponsor of that legislation and has recently stated his support for a similar new law.

Less than 24 hours after a shooting rampage in Boulder, Col. that left 10 people dead March 22, Biden proposed a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as an expansion of background checks during gun sales. "I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act."

The need for such action can be seen in the fact there were 126 mass shootings in the first three months of this year that left 148 people dead and 481 injured, for a total of 629 victims, some of which included the shooter.

In just 10 days from April 16 through April 25 there were another 16 mass shootings that left 11 dead and 66 injured in 12 states.

The rate of fatal shootings has risen since 2014 in all but 12 of the 100 largest cities. In cities such Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Houston and Kansas City, the rate of fatal shootings was well more than twice as high in 2020 as in 2014. Most of the increase occurred last year.

The work of policing is simply far more dangerous in places with more guns. Even though police officers' actual risk of being killed by gunfire is as low as it's been in 50 years, the threat of violence against police still dominates every aspect of police culture and officer behavior.

As long as cities have a gun problem, abusive and violent policing will be much harder to solve. And addressing the gun problem itself is exceedingly difficult, with only imperfect and politically challenging approaches available. Governments could require licenses for gun ownership, better regulate gun sales and closely track guns used to commit crimes, especially as they move across state lines.

Biden was Vice President when President Barack Obama made an unsuccessful attempt in 2013 to pass new legislation after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting that left six adults and 20 children dead in December 2012.

Once again, Obama, now a retired President, has urged passage of gun-control measures: "We can overcome opposition by cowardly politicians and the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the availability of anyone to assemble an arsenal. We can and we must."

However, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) at a Senate committee hearing on gun violence, made it clear that Republicans are not about to reconsider. "Every time there's a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders."

The bills passed by the House are aimed at closing loopholes in the requirement that gun buyers undergo criminal background checks. The "Charleston loophole," for example, allows someone to buy a gun if a background check is not concluded after three days, and that would be extended to 10 days.

A second bill would close the "gun show loophole" which allows private individuals who are not licensed dealers to buy and sell guns without background checks.

However, gun-control activists see some reason for hope. They cite the enduring popularity of expanding background checks; they point to the internal problems that have roiled the National Rifle Association, their most powerful opponent. They reflect on the success Democrats have had running on gun issues in the suburban areas where their congressional majorities were built; and they point to the recently successful push to place new restrictions on guns in Virginia.

Police should not be asked to respond to all of the problems that come with extreme urban inequality. The people who are called in to mediate conflicts, calm tempers, and defuse feuds should be credible messengers who have the cultural authority to talk to their neighbors with respect, empathy and wisdom. Police should not be called in to disrupt disputes among people who do not trust them.

Police must be called to respond when a gun is present, but community residents, leaders and organizations who do this work are the ones who create public safety.

Let's have a new day for gun control.


Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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