By John David Dyche
I have never agreed with President Barack Obama about anything as much as I did his powerful statement after the hideous Oregon shooting rampage. Conservative critics, with whom I agree on many other things, promptly pounced on Obama.
They complained that he spoke before all facts were known. True, but there have been so many other mass shootings upon which he could base his case.
They said the gun control measures Obama proposes would not have stopped the carnage. Maybe not, but even if Obama overstated it, the relationship between gun restrictions and rates of gun-related deaths is still hotly debated and disputed.
They contended Obama has only himself to blame since he could have passed any gun law he wanted when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress during his presidency's first two years. Perhaps, but Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was short-lived.
Some conservatives apparently do not think America has a gun violence/mass shooting problem. They evidently believe that our shocking rate of multi-faceted gun slaughter is normal.
But according to University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford as cited in the Wall Street Journal, "The U.S. represents less than 5 percent of the 7.3 billion global population but accounted for 31 percent of global mass shooters during the period from 1966 to 2012, more than any other country," and "the 90 killers who carried out mass shootings in the U.S. amounted to five times as many as the next highest country, the Philippines."
The U.S. has had more than a mass shooting (four or more killed or injured) per day in 2015 in addition to a staggering number of other shootings. The toll is over 10,000 deaths and 20,000 wounded in almost 40,000 incidents of all sorts this year.
Some conservatives who concede a problem argue that nothing - or at least nothing constitutional - can be done about it. They say criminals do not obey laws anyway and recommend armed self-defense. In other words, the only answer is more guns.
There is something to this. Posted "gun-free zones" may actually increase danger.
While citizens should not have to carry guns to be safe in modern America, demonstrably responsible gun owners should be free to do so. We must also, regrettably, harden targets and increase armed, trained security at vulnerable places like campuses and theaters where mass shootings repeatedly happen.
Pro-gun people are also right to demand more than mere demands to "do something" from reformers. We can only debate specific proposals, none of which will be 100 percent effective.
The perfect should not be the enemy of the good, however, and America is at the point where an "all of the above" response is required. Conservatives favoring that approach for energy policy should consider it for guns.
Other advanced countries have essentially confiscated guns and limit their possession to law enforcement. The Constitution currently prevents that here, and it is politically impossible anyway.
But we should continue to define the Second Amendment's contours by passing laws limiting things besides the literal "keeping and bearing" of arms. Let's impose testing and insurance requirements, for example, and do more to identify high-risk people and prevent them from getting guns in the first place.
There is widespread agreement we should expand mental health programs, especially those focused on the young men who commit so much of daily gun violence and a disproportionate share of mass shootings. We need a major legislative effort to find and treat the risk population before it is too late.
In inner-cities, why not try a "JUST SAY NO TO GUNS" public relations campaign like the 1980s anti-drug effort? Also, let's greatly expand gun buyback programs, increase policing, increase sentences for gun crimes, and develop more law enforcement personnel from affected communities.
By all means we should heed conservative calls to better enforce existing laws. For one, we need an improved background check system. Reviving the bipartisan bill of Senators Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, would be a good beginning.
These things will cost money. Higher gun and ammunition taxes and license fees are one potential source.
Some folks actually seem to love their guns more than they do their fellow human beings. They appear content with the bloody status quo since it is primarily other people's children, the urban poor, and police who are dying from gun violence.
Many of these gun lovers no doubt consider themselves good Christians. Is there really any way to read the teachings of Jesus that does not require us to do much more to reduce gun violence and renounce what can sometimes be the idolatrous worship of guns?
Yes, it is a very complicated issue, and there are no easy answers. But surely we can find some common ground and take at least some effective action.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.
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