America has a mass shooting crisis. So the headlines tell us. The summer has seen a spate of mass shootings in America from California to El Paso, Texas to Dayton, Ohio. The responses have been predictable. Gun control advocates argue for more restrictions on firearms while gun advocates see few benefits. The talking points are the same we have heard before. Universal background checks should be the norm (even though they mostly are) while law abiding gun owners should not be punished by the actions of a few lawless individuals. Both are right. But, both seem incompatible with each other.
Compounding any movement on the issue is President Trump. You could argue Trump has fomented violence and hate though I fail to see how he is the only one at fault when Universal Pictures was set to release a film about rich liberals hunting “deplorables.” No violent symbolism there. It also doesn’t help when candidates for President and the member of Congress who represents El Paso, Veronica Escobar, basically bans the President from visiting the site.
Nobody comes out blameless in America’s gun violence epidemic. Yes, it is an epidemic. But the instant response to automatically assume more gun restrictions (or less) will solve the issue is foolish. Even the President and Republicans have gotten in on the act by suggesting universal background checks and ERPO’s (Emergency Restraint Protection Orders) can alleviate the issue. Sorry guys, they cannot.
America’s gun violence issue is integrally tied to the issues which divide America; culture, immigration, mental health, poverty, race, gender the list goes on. Is it any wonder why the majority of shooters are white men who do not relate to others? Yes, I know, I know, they are white supremacists. Well, unless they were born that way, something triggered these actions. Unfortunately, it is doubtful the President’s words did.
On the point of culture, this goes beyond immigration but it goes to society in general. In particular, among men, rates of suicide and opioid overdoses are on the rise. A new study from the CDC found three in ten men and boys suffer from body image and more than half struggle with feelings of self-worth. This does not mean they are going to start going into their local Wal-Mart and shoot up the place but it does suggest they are more likely to become radicalized (in whatever form that takes) to find some sort of meaning and self-worth.
Mass shootings, or at least shootings, also have significant ties to poverty and race. I am looking straight at you, mainstream media. Even as the shootings in El Paso and Dayton were getting all the news coverage (a white man shooting up a minority-majority community), over a dozen shootings occurred in Chicago leaving three dead and more than a dozen wounded. The victims were black. The shooters were black. Only if you were on non-mainstream media sites (including Fox News) would you have heard this particular detail.
There is not a simple fix to this problem. There may not even be a fix to this problem. There are reasonable precautions which can be put in places such as ERPO’s and universal background checks. But, the Supreme Court and our own constitution make it clear the right to own a firearm is unassailable. When the Supreme Court in Heller deemed it was illegal for Chicago to outright ban firearms it was making it clear you cannot ban firearm ownership.
So, the simplest way to stop this epidemic is out (because nobody else has committed mass murder without a gun). Not that this has stopped others from trying. California continues to implement restriction after restriction on firearms. They have gotten to the point though where any additional restrictions on firearm ownership would likely be challenged and overthrown in Court. So, they settle for higher taxes on bullets and firearm purchases. Glad we are treating the symptom and not the disease.
This article has mostly been about the issues and problems inter-related with gun violence. It is light on solutions precisely because there are not many obvious ones. The most obvious solution would be to create a greater sense of community among citizens. I would hasten to add though, taking away guns from individuals is also taking away a form of community. Many gun-owners attend expos, talk on online forums and share stories about firearms. It is important to consider this in any solution.
Creating a sense of community in a nation of immigrants, different races and cultures isn’t easy. But those with the most power, I am looking at you Mr President, the mainstream media and Democratic candidates for President, can at least start to try by talking about what unites us instead of divides us. The future of our nation might depend on it.
Photo by VOX