With each mass shooting, the swell of outrage begins with deafening cries to fix what is agreeably a gross misuse of firearms by people bent on causing death and maximum carnage. But with each outrage, the deafening cries soon subside, based on promises to fix an issue that has far-reaching consequences for the entire country.
While the names of their victims have fallen into relative obscurity, the names of the perpetrators of the nation’s worst mass shootings inevitably have become etched into our minds — not because of any glory attached to their deeds — because of the sheer magnitude of savagery and slaughter that a few individuals could inflict upon so many innocents.
But beyond the obvious depravity of these perpetrators exists the fundamental issue of how to prevent such horrors, and how to protect the most vulnerable in our society: our children.
How can we strike a balance between the protection of citizens and the constitutional right of others to possess firearms? While this question has been a major legal dilemma for lawmakers, there are also other serious questions that have yet to be asked or answered.
Over the years, the approach to gun legislation has swung wildly from the feasible to the absurd. Suggestions have been fielded from the coherent idea of enhanced screenings for firearm buyers, to the illogical notion of a complete ban on all firearms.
Obviously, an all-encompassing ban on guns in a nation where more than 300 million firearms are already in the hands of millions of citizens is likely not the answer, not to mention the patently implausible feat required to repeal the Second Amendment.
Conversely, enhanced screening appears to be one of the proposals that has bipartisan support. Even the powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, appears to be on board with this, but even this proposal appears fraught with pitfalls.
For example, how would enhanced background checks prevent a person with no criminal background, who had ill intent, from purchasing weapons? Even if every single state submitted an individual’s disqualifying information to a national database, a person with no criminal record still would not be flagged.
Assailants like Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, and Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes, had no criminal background that would have precluded them from buying guns. In fact, they did pass background checks and committed their crimes with legally-purchased weapons.
Consequently, there is also no lawful measure that can round up the hundreds of thousands of easily-accessible and readily-available illegal guns on the U.S. black market.
There could be some debate over whether these killers could have passed psychological screenings, but this raises yet another question.
How many medical professionals would be willing to accept the liability of certifying a person fit to own a firearm? Future mental illness and mental breakdowns are not always easily predictable.
Dr. Fredric Neuman succinctly addressed the problem of predicting future violence, after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, in an article from Psychology Today.
“It is understandable that confronting the horror of the mass murder reported a few days ago that we look to some kind of hope for preventing such attacks in the future, but the fact is we do not know how to predict them, and I do not think we will ever know.”
So we see that the two legislative solutions being promoted by the NRA and other gun supporters might not be solutions at all. The recent legislation suggested by President Donald Trump and passed by the state of Florida raising the gun purchase age to 21 seems to have no teeth either.
According to a comprehensive list of mass shootings compiled by Mother Jones, of the nearly 100 mass shootings that occurred between 1982 and 2018, only 13 of the perpetrators were under 21. Additionally, according to Mother Jones, the average age of these shooters was 35.
So how do we keep guns out of the hands of criminals and deranged persons without infringing upon the rights of those who are responsible gun owners?
Trump’s suggestion that guns be confiscated without due process was met with resistance and skepticism by gun rights advocates.
The so-called “moderate” gun control advocates are now promoting a ban on high-capacity firearms, like the AR-15. However, the NRA has stated that it will go along with enhanced screening, but will not support any type of ban on firearms.
So once again, the nation finds itself at a stalemate over gun control, and once again, innocent lives have been lost.
Is there any hope of solving this problem, or is it already too late to put the genie back into the bottle?