Tragedy strikes Texas
Yet another murder spree
America shed bitter, angry tears again yesterday as 19 students and two teachers were murdered in yet another shooting spree, this one in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The attack is eerily reminiscent of the Sandy Hook massacre from 2012, and comes only 10 days after a white nationalist killed 10 black people and injured three other victims in Buffalo.
The gunman in Uvalde was an 18-year-old man who reportedly shot his grandmother, who is still alive, before going to Robb Elementary School with a pistol and possibly a rifle. The motive for the attack is currently unknown but the killer was apparently shot and killed by police.
The attack will reignite the same debate that we’ve had many times before. There will be calls for new restrictions and bans on “assault rifles,” even though there is so far no evidence that an assault rifle was used.
For that matter, the perpetrator could not legally purchase the pistol used in the murders. Federal law prohibits the sale of handguns to anyone under the age of 21. The perp may have stolen the gun, used a false ID, or got it through a straw purchase or family member, but he didn’t buy it legally by himself.
[More recent information says that the killer bought two assault rifles after turning 18.]
And that’s the crux of the problem. Most of the solutions that we are going to hear are broad, “shotgun-style” solutions that don’t differentiate between the gun owner who never has and never will commit a crime and those who present a high risk of hurting someone. That’s both unjust and a waste of resources.
The crux of the problem is not how to get guns out of private hands - we can’t and shouldn’t try to ban guns - but how to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. It isn’t the hunters or the guys who plink at cans with their ARs that are the threat. It is the mentally unbalanced and evil people who use guns to threaten their neighbors and family.
I don’t yet know the specifics of the Uvalde case, but spree killers often give off a plethora of warning signs. I wrote a little over a year ago that well-crafted red flag laws that include due process to prevent abuse are one of the few gun control measures that make sense. I took some flak for that, but I stand by it. There seem to have been plenty of warning signs about the Uvalde shooter as well.
I also believe that shooting sprees are not only tragic for the lives that they end and alter but that they also present the most dire threat to the Second Amendment. Americans aren’t going to continue to put up with random public killings indefinitely. Every innocent murdered in a school or grocery store makes it more likely that that the Second Amendment will be gutted or hacked away by politicians acting on behalf of frightened voters.
Resisting any and every effort to solve the problem of spree killings - and they are an American problem although not uniquely so - on the grounds of protecting the Second Amendment is misguided. No right is unlimited and acting to keep guns away from those who would become spree killers will help to protect the Second Amendment rights of the rest of us. If you can’t get on board with any idea to stop the killings then you’re part of the problem.
But if you are one of the people who trots out the same, ineffective gun control solutions and gun bans, you’re also part of the problem. Gun owners are justifiably hesitant to compromise with anti-gunners because many of them have told us that their ultimate goal is a gun-free America.
It is both extremes that act in concert to prevent common sense solutions.
I do value the Second Amendment and the right to own a gun, but I also believe that there is a moral imperative to act to prevent these spree killings. I further believe that most of the typical gun control solutions are nothing more than “ feel good” solutions. It is telling that the two recent shooting sprees occurred in Texas, one of the states with least restrictive gun laws, and New York, one of the most restrictive states.
Neither side wants to remember or admit that the murder rampages occur where their ideas have been put into practice, but the truth is that neither side’s policies are making a difference. It’s time to try something else.
Something else like making it easier for mental health professionals to alert law enforcement to potential threats. Or like intervening with committal laws that would take potentially violent mentally ill off the streets or ensuring that they stay on their medication. Or mandating gun safety training and safe storage of guns kept in households where there are children or teens, especially those with troublesome records.
It’s also worth noting that guns and ammunition are protected under the right to keep and bear arms. The tactical gear and body armor worn by many spree killers is not.
We need to do something and there are steps that we can take without threatening the Second Amendment, which at this point is firmly rooted in judicial precedent as an individual right. Second Amendment supporters need to offer some solutions to the problem beyond stationing police officers in schools and arming teachers.
Unfortunately, our political system is broken. Neither side wants to act in good faith to address the problem. It’s easier to score points by painting the other side as evil and radical.
We need to do something, but we can get away with doing nothing. And that’s probably what we’ll do.