Gun Violence: Enter the Kneejerk

As the gun violence debate continues, and legislative sessions in both Washington and state legislatures come back from the holidays we are beginning to see proposed laws that amount to kneejerks. On both sides of the discussion they make for poor starting points.

It took Sandy Hook and little kids getting blown away for that very large middle of America to turn away from Honey Boo Boo, American Idol and the latest antics of Kim Kardashian and look at our gun laws and how they relate to the gun violence that permeates our culture. This left the fringe left and fringe right to go to their previously established trenches and begin to lob volleys. That big middle just doesn’t care what either fringe has to say. They know that we need 21st Century solutions to gun violence that was not ever conceived in the 18th Century when the 2nd Amendment was written by Madison.

The first volley came from Diane Feinstein and a kneejerk declaration to reintroduce the Assault Weapons Ban. The second, a week later came from the NRA in the form of a tone-deft pronouncement from the NRA. BOTH tailored a response that focused on the Sandy Hook type of gun violence…and both ignored the fact that Sandy Hook type mass shootings only account for less than ONE PERCENT of shooting deaths each year.

But, from those two volleys the conversation was framed.

Now, we are beginning to see a flood of responses from legislators, left and right that “solve the problem”…they don’t. In just the past three days we have seen:

In Illinois a Senate committee introduced legislation that would “ban the possession, delivery, sale and transfer of semiautomatic handguns and rifles.” That would, unless modified include everything from Ruger 22 rifles [used by the Boy Scouts to teach marksmanship] to nearly every handgun currently on the market. It has already been removed from consideration.

In Connecticut a measure has been forwarded to publicly name all gun owners. This follows the Westchester County Journal News that published an interactive map of all gun permit holders in the county…including retired cops and judges.  This action, to me has two fatal flaws. First, it treats all gun owners like criminals, like publishing a sex offenders list. The second reason becomes evident the first time an ex cop is killed because bad guys now know where he lives…

Also in Connecticut a bill is moving forward to limit access to ammunition. “A gun without ammunition is only a club. We really need to restrict access to ammunition,” Looney said.

From the other side, newly minted Kentucky Congressman Tom Massie has proposed to Congress a bill that would erase a 23-year-old federal ban that makes it a crime to carry guns near schools. It is interesting in that he proposes ending the Gun Free Zones Act that that was supported as late as 1999 by the NRA.

We think it is reasonable to support the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act.” Wayne LaPierre, May 27, 1999

In South Carolina the State Legislature is considering a bill that would nullify Federal gun laws. Senate Bill 85 (SB85) states that, “A personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in South Carolina and that remains within the borders of South Carolina is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.”

I believe South Carolina proposed similar anti Federal legislation that started the Civil War 152 years ago.

In Maryland their legislature is considering a bill that would put armed guards in schools while other legislation in the same house looks to ban assault rifles. The plan for armed guards is to be paid to local school districts from the fund that is supposed to go to education.

These TEN examples are just a few of the bills that are being pushed through legislatures. In nearly every case they are a kneejerk “solution” to a Sandy Hook style shooting. They, in no circumstance provide a framework for a solution to the 15,000 average murders that occur each year…68% of which are committed with firearms. Nor do they address the 200,000 plus injuries by firearm. They only address, at best ONE PERCENT of deaths.

What this means…the focus is flawed, in some cases intentionally away from the conversation of GUN VIOLENCE to one that is based on the threat and PERCEIVED threat to our public places, our restaurants, bars, churches, theaters, malls, workplaces and schools. While 2012 gave us headlines that reflected all of those, they made up less than 100 of the 12,000 homicides from this year. It is time to focus on the comprehensive problem…and do something about stopping kneejerk reactions to real problems.

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