Here we go again. Following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, conservative gun advocates describe the problem of gun violence as too hard to fix. The gun lobby and those who want unlimited access to guns in the United States are claiming that there is very little that can be done about the slaughter of innocents and the rampant increase in gun violence and mass shootings in the country.
This is simply not true.
The argument that no list of measures can stop every single illegal gun death is not the point. The goal of the protection of innocents from murder should be to reverse the trend of increasing gun violence and mass shootings in America. How many unnecessary killings does it take to justify measures to limit the crisis that is plaguing the land? Surely it is enough to justify tighter gun controls if legal measures to keep guns away from terrorists, the mentally ill and murderers can stop one mass slaughter and reverse the overall trend in murders.
Before you jump to conclusions and stop reading, let me give you some background. I grew up in a hunting culture in Arkansas, and I respect the right of citizens to own weapons for hunting, sport and home security. My father and grandfather were hunters, and my dad collected guns. Two of my sons are avid and responsible hunters, and I spent a 28-year career as an officer in the U.S. Army, an institution that properly trains and qualifies soldiers on lethal weapons and carefully controls them.
The absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, to me, looks like a political strategy that primarily serves the gun lobby. I will never be convinced that America's founding fathers intended for the U.S. Constitution to enable the insane, domestic terrorists and criminals to execute innocent citizens with firearms. They wanted a militia for national defense. We have one called the National Guard.
The gun industry, its national political lobbyists and supporters argue that there are too many guns to control and what we need are more guns. That is not true either. Measures to limit the possession of weapons to the crazy, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists and thugs are available. It is a matter of national will.
Programs can start with pressure to pass effective gun ownership background-check laws today lying dormant in Congress.
From there, let's address assault rifles. These weapons of war have no sport or hunting purpose. Assault rifles and other means of mass killings should be illegal except in the hands of law enforcement and the military. If banning private ownership of assault rifles is a bridge too far, require owners to pay $1,000 or more a year for registration and provide the proceeds to the victims of gun violence. Owners of these weapons also should be required to complete safety training by local law enforcement. Every assault-rifle owner should undergo an extensive background check and be legally required to store the weapon in a secure safe. These weapons must be tracked carefully. Every sale and purchase of an assault weapon should be recorded in a local, state and national database.
Other measures are also viable--red-flag laws to identify the deranged and extremists who are subject to violence. The FBI and state police should increase monitoring and infiltration into domestic terrorist groups. Parents, spouses and schools who identify potentially unstable people should have greater access to mental health-care assistance.
Arkansas is not immune from preventable gun violence. My hometown of Jonesboro experienced a school shooting by teenagers in 1998. It can happen again in the current environment of extreme racism and hate flowing from the highest level of the government. What is at issue today is whether the state's leaders will take action to prevent mass murder in Arkansas before it happens.
El Paso feels like a turning point for the nation. Doing nothing is not an option. Despite the fearmongering on the right, very few people want to take away guns from all Americans. The vast majority of Americans want common-sense actions to significantly reduce the violence.
The United States and Arkansas should not hide when confronted with a tough problem. Traditionally, we act, and we should do so now. Leaders who lack the courage to act on gun violence should face the political consequences of their failure in the next election.
Jonesboro native James W. Pardew is a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer.
Editorial on 08/09/2019
Print Headline: JAMES PARDEW: Same fight, again