Thursday, December 3, 2015

Can we prevent more San Bernardino massacres?: "we’re not even trying"

Here's an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times on known remedies and a plea from Ronald Reagan.

Another day, another ghastly shooting in America.

So far this year, the United States has averaged more than one mass shooting a day, according to the ShootingTracker website, counting cases of four or more people shot. And now we have the attack on Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed at least 14 people.

It’s too soon to know exactly what happened in San Bernardino, but just in the last four years, more people have died in the United States from guns (including suicides and accidents) than Americans have died in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined. When one person dies in America every 16 minutes from a gun, we urgently need to talk about remedies.

What remedies could we put in place? The American public knows. Gun owners know.

While Republicans in Congress resist the most basic steps to curb gun access by violent offenders, the public is much more reasonable. Even among gun owners, 85 percent approve of universal background checks, according to a poll this year.

Likewise, an overwhelming share of gun owners support cracking down on firearms dealers who are careless or lose track of guns. Majorities of gun owners also favor banning people under 21 from having a handgun and requiring that guns be locked up at home.

So why are we not even talking about such remedies? One reason is the NRA.

These are reasonable steps that are, tragically, blocked by the N.R.A. and its allies. The N.R.A. used to be a reasonable organization. It supported the first major federal gun law in 1934 and ultimately backed the 1968 Gun Control Act. As a farm kid growing up in rural Oregon, I received a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday and took an N.R.A. safety course that, as I recall, came with a one-year membership. But the N.R.A. has turned into an extremist lobby that vehemently opposes even steps overwhelmingly backed by gun owners.

Ditto. About the same age I learned marksmanship on a police range with .22 rifles in a course sponsored by the NRA. What the hell went wrong with that organization?

Kristof appeals to those who revere Ronald Reagan.

When we tackled drunken driving, we took steps like raising the drinking age to 21 and cracking down on offenders. That didn’t eliminate drunken driving, but it saved thousands of lives.

For similar reasons, Ronald Reagan, hailed by Republicans in every other context, favored gun regulations, including mandatory waiting periods for purchases.

"Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns," Reagan wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 1991 backing gun restrictions. "This level of violence must be stopped."

He added that if tighter gun regulations "were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land."

Republicans, listen to your sainted leader.

But they are not. Kristof is spot on. We need to treat firearm murders as a public health issue. But the thing is:

It’s not clear what policy, if any, could have prevented the killings in San Bernardino. Not every shooting is preventable. But we’re not even trying.

Jesus wept.

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