In last week’s column, following the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso, in which 22 people died, I invited Bulletin readers to submit ideas for something – anything – America might do to slow the epidemic of mass shootings in our country.
A lot of people responded with a variety of ideas. I asked readers to submit short concepts, without regard to expense or difficulty of implementation. A public brainstorming session, if you will.
One person corrected my statement that we as a nation had not done anything to address the situation. She pointed out that we HAVE done at least three things federally.
- In 1994, Congress enacted the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which focused on 18 specific weapons and lasted for 10 years before expiring in 2004. A National Institutes of Health study of mass shootings from 1981 to 2017 showed mass-shooting fatalities were 70 percent less likely to occur during that 1994-2004 period when the assault weapons were banned. The study also showed, of the 501 U.S. mass shooting deaths between 1981 and 2017, 430 of those deaths, or 86 percent, came at the hands of assault weapons.
- In 2016, the Obama administration enacted a rule requiring the Social Security Administration to communicate with the FBI background check system regarding disabled adults whose mental impairments hindered them being able to manage finances. It broadened a similar longstanding (and continuing) practice by the Department of Veterans Affairs prohibiting gun sales due to mental incompetence. The Social Security rule was overturned in early 2017, through the Congressional Review Act, just a few weeks after it had begun.
- In December 2018, the Trump administration banned bump stocks, attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to shoot as machine guns. Bump stocks were found to be used in the 2017 killings at a Las Vegas concert in which 59 people lost their lives in a 10-minute period. It was America’s deadliest mass shooting perpetrated by one person.
Each of those acts had loopholes and, obviously, no single one eliminated the mass shooting epidemic. And we never had all three, or even any two of the three, in place at the same time. As one reader said, there is no single answer; the problem must be addressed on multiple fronts.
I got responses from more than a dozen readers, many with multiple suggestions. There were several duplications of ideas. Some are very original, some very familiar, some very complicated and some very questionable Constitutionally. But all of these people considered the issue and put something forward.
Three of the six who suggested assault weapon bans identified themselves as gun owners, and two of those three identified themselves as retired military members.
“Let us ask ourselves,” said a Vietnam Era Army veteran, “Who needs an AK-47, an AR-15, etc.? These are weapons of mass destruction. They are not for hunting, let alone personal protection. They are meant to create mayhem.”
I’m not going to analyze or critique any of the ideas submitted. I appreciate the readers’ thoughtfulness and participation. So, here are some of their suggestions, by category.
- A license to own a gun should be renewed annually, along with an updated background check.
- All guns should be registered, and gun owners should be held responsible for their weapon’s use, no matter whose hands they might fall into.
- Enhance security against mass shooters with check-in lobbies, metal detectors and armed guards (uniformed and plain-clothed, ideally with combat experience from police or military service).
- Bring back insane asylums, updated with 21st century technology, medicine and compassion.
- Just as public schools have police often onsite (school resource officers), they should also have psychiatrists onsite, and every student required to visit at least once a semester.
- No one should own a weapon with more force than that in the local police department.
- Ban assault rifles.
- Do a collection and buy-back of assault rifles, as they did in Australia.
- Ban magazines that go with assault rifles.
- Limit the size of magazines.
- Require firearms manufacturers to install microchips in assault rifles and those that can be modified into assault rifles.
- Law enforcement should go through previous sales and find names and addresses of owners and confiscate all assault rifles.
- Make hollow-point bullets illegal.
- After every mass shooting, members of Congress, the White House and Supreme Court should be required to donate blood en masse, in full view of the American public within 24 hours.
- Government should not reveal the killers’ names, but just give them a numerical designation.
- Don’t publish their manifestos.
- Require non-violent and diversity training with the purchase of any firearm. Could be done by stores, or organizations like the NRA.
- Accelerate prosecution of mass shooters, with rapid collection of evidence for immediate trial.
- Prohibit appeals for criminal convictions of mass shooters.
- A mandatory death sentence with immediate execution by mass shooting. The number of firing squad members could match the number of the mass shooter’s victims. No blindfold.
I don’t know if all, or even any, of these ideas could be implemented. Maybe some of them could be seeds for other ideas. Some certainly seem worth trying. I do know this: I wish we, as a nation, would do something.
None of us will ever forget 9/11. We, as a nation, decided we didn’t want that to happen again. I don’t like taking off my shoes and belt at the airport any more than you do, but we haven’t had a domestic air terrorist event in 18 years. That shows we, as a nation, can do something, and do it swiftly, if we want to.