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Gun Control Common Sense
By Jack DeVine


All human action stems from that one-word question. We do things for a reason.

Why look both ways before crossing the street? The obvious answer: to keep from being hit by a car. Of course there are many factors contributing to pedestrian fatalities – drunk drivers, speeding drivers, texting drivers, unlicensed drivers, murderous drivers. We pass and enforce laws to attack those causes, and they help – but if you really don’t want to get hit, look both ways.

For years the left has been demanding "common sense” gun control. The clamor has intensified with the active involvement of several student survivors of the horrendous school shooting a month ago at the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland FL. The students’ angry reaction to their ordeal has sparked nationwide protest, including last week’s school walkouts and this week’s March for our Lives. Central to their demands is legislation to ban AR-15s and comparable firearms.

Their objective – the "why” – is to prevent another Parkland. But we know now that a cascade of factors made that massacre possible: a deeply troubled Nikolas Cruz; a school system policy of shielding violent students like Cruz from police records; availability in the marketplace of high power, rapid fire guns; stunningly ineffective police follow-up on credible predictions of Cruz’s rampage; an unprotected school where he could walk in heavily armed, in the middle of the day, and fire away.

These students’ energy and intentions are admirable. We should not question their sincerity, but neither should we believe that they have any unique insights into the issue. Wanting to stop gun violence and knowing how to do so are two very different things.

We owe these young people our support, but we’d do them no favors by following their advice and taking actions that offer little prospect for improvement, that ignore the real underlying issues, and that would leave them as vulnerable as ever.

The popular and simplistic view of gun violence in the U.S. goes something like this: we have more guns per capita than just about anywhere in the world and more gun violence – ergo, guns are the problem and gun control is the solution. No more guns, no more gun violence. Done.

But mass killings in the US and elsewhere tell us otherwise. Committed killers always find weapons – handguns, rifles, knives, vehicles, home made explosives, whatever – to do the job. Legality has little to do with it.

Banning something doesn’t make it go away. There are some 300 million guns floating around in the US, including an estimated 10-15 million AR-15s. A spectacularly successful government buyback program might retrieve 20% of those (and probably none of the ones in the hands of serious criminals). Over the long term, such a ban would dry up sources of new AR-15s – but neither experience nor logic suggests that it would prevent another Parkland any time soon.

Gun violence in the US is an extraordinarily serious issue; it cries out for objectively sound, non-partisan action. Sadly, and despite insistence to the contrary, the new children’s crusade is wholly politicized. We now have high school students engaging in the same thoughtless rhetoric as the partisan politicians they promise to vote out of office in a few years. It’s not helping.

Both sides need to break out of their entrenched positions. For Republicans, quit worrying about the slippery slope of ceding ground on gun control. The second amendment is here to stay. We should work within it, not hide behind it.

For Democrats, stop the blame game. The NRA didn’t cause the Parkland shooting and none of the gun control initiatives you’ve been advocating would have prevented it. And please stop hiding behind the traumatized Parkland victims to press your political views.

For both sides: don’t let this go the way of DACA. Don’t let reasonable solutions slip through the cracks because of political calculus on optimal positioning for the 2018 mid-term elections.

We – young and old, left, right and center - share the common objective of stopping gun violence, particularly in our schools. There’s no doubt that there is room in that quest for experienced-based improvement in gun control legislation, regulation and enforcement. Call it commonsense gun control. But first priority must be fast-acting and defensive – harden the targets and do a much better job at keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

`We need to be pragmatic, to keep our eye on the ball. We need to look both ways.


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InBrief 13dec18

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