Mass shootings have troubled our country since Columbine in 1998. Our schools, workplaces, entertainment venues and places of worship have all been targeted by mentally or emotionally unstable individuals, who should never have had access to guns. Past wounds are reopened with each new tragedy, bringing new calls to “do something.”
Everyone retreats to their ideological corners, talking points are tossed back and forth and nothing gets done. To find a solution that transcends politics, we should focus on facts, not anecdotal and emotional rhetoric. Here are the facts about guns in the United States: More than 300 million guns are legally owned in America.
Two thirds of all gun deaths in America are suicides. Two percent of shootings are by rifles, the rest pistols. 63 percent of shootings take place in private homes, and 54 percent are related to domestic violence. In 42 percent of cases, the shooter exhibited at least one red flag prior to the shooting, and 34 percent involved a shooter who was prohibited from legally possessing firearms.
So what are the real problems we need to solve? We can prevent school shootings by “hardening” schools to reduce the perception they are easy targets, limiting access to school entry points, and hiring retired law
enforcement as armed guards. Further, there is an urgent need to put fail-safe procedures and “trip wires” in
place to ensure all citizens who are mentally ill, demonstrably emotionally disturbed, substance abusers or have been convicted on felony charges, do not obtain any type of gun.
These individuals do not have the mental or social capacity to obey our laws and 2nd Amendment rights should not be entrusted to them. This is analogous to unprotected speech under the 1st Amendment. Next, Parkland shows how wholly inadequate communication and response is among government agencies. Similar to the 9/11 commission recommendations for sharing intelligence, we need to overhaul how information is shared and acted upon among law enforcement agencies.
I voted for the Fix NICS Act, which penalizes federal and state authorities that fail to report relevant information
to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). One analogy is the sex offender database, where states are required to share information for proper background checks. We need everyone to be aware and put “see something, say something” into routine observance of behaviors.
Another issue is bump stocks, an accessory that allows more rapid fire, similar to that of a fully automatic weapon. There is a growing body of thought, with which I agree, that these accessories should be banned.
Additionally, we have to recognize that a generation of violent video games and movies and the breakdown of the family and community, have had an impact on American youth. The number of boys growing up without fathers is alarming and a sociological challenge with far- reaching effects.
We can take actions to make it harder for an unstable person to get a weapon and invade a school, theater, office, restaurant, etc., but at the end of the day, we need to confront the negative societal trends in contemporary American life; only then can we begin to fix the underlying issues and true causes of these deadly attacks.
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district.
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