Political leaders must address prolific access to assault weapons
The bottom line is this: The rights of individuals to live free from fear that friends and family might be the next victim of senseless gun violence should be paramount.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting — and the subsequent (re)shaking of our nation’s ethical compass for gun safety, as it guides us toward better protection of our children and families — it is poignant that from the mouths of our children we have heard the greatest wisdom.
From those Parkland students, echoed throughout classrooms across America, our children’s voices have distilled and focused our collective energies around this issue in ways we’ve not seen in decades. And they have no problem in speaking truth to power and identifying the problem for what it is: guns. They live unencumbered by the baggage of partisan politics and influence of a billion-dollar weapons manufacturing industry.
While I was grateful to see our incumbent state representative taking a moment to reflect upon the growing tragedy of gun violence and the rising death toll, I found it disappointing that his recent opinion piece in the Bucks County Courier Times (“Improve state’s treatment laws“) seemed to sadly miss the mark.
Was it a problem that local law-enforcement and FBI officials didn’t react sufficiently to early warning signs from the shooter? Yes.
Is there a failing in our collective response and treatment for individuals with acute and/or chronic mental health concerns? Absolutely.
But even if we remedy these issues, this leaves an untenable burden on these safety nets; and even the most sophisticated response and intervention system will fail us. Because until we address the prolific access to assault weapons, these unstable individuals will continue to slip through those cracks, armed to the teeth, with no measurable defense for citizens who find themselves caught in the crossfire.
And no … we shouldn’t be arming teachers. Their jobs are hard enough. Now we want them to be deputized law enforcement volunteers? Here lies our fundamental disagreement: More guns won’t make us safer.
All the while, politicians dance around the issue for fear of offending the NRA and the gun lobby; hanging their hats on an ages-old constitutional language put into place when automatic weapons were not even considered a possibility.
The bottom line is this: The rights of individuals to live free from fear that friends, husbands, wives, sons, or daughters might be the next victim of senseless gun violence should be paramount. No court has ever held that assault weapons belong in civilian hands, and legislators shouldn’t discount this by talking circles around the issue.
So we should be doing everything in our power to make it more difficult, not easier, to be a gun owner. And for those brave souls whose job it is to protect our public safety, we have an obligation to give them the best possible chance for success and safety by taking these weapons of war out of the hands of individuals looking to do them harm.
Some efforts underway which could improve matters:
- Universal background checks for all gun purchases
- Reporting lost and stolen firearms within 72 hours of discovery, giving law enforcement a head start on recovering weapons
- Firearm restraining order temporarily forfeiting firearms of individuals when evidenced they pose immediate threat
- Banning sale of rapid firing devices like “bump stocks” that simulate automatic fire
- Mental health disqualifications sent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 72 hours of state police receiving mental health data
- Background check for ammunition purchases in manner similar to purchasing firearms
- Banning sales and possession of semi-automatic rifles and large capacity magazines
This won’t solve all problems, nor is it a guarantee that events like this won’t happen again. But we would be stacking the deck in our favor and reducing the unconscionable risk that burdens us daily.
And perhaps our children can once again look forward to the bright promise of a future that we all believe, in our hearts, is still within reach.
Daryl Boling is the Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for state representative in the 152nd District.
WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.