The war in Ukraine drags on. The US and China are bickering about what might have been a Chinese surveillance balloon blown off course, which drifted over sensitive US military sites and was eventually shot dow over the Atlantic Ocean. Now China may be threatening to send lethal aid to Russia to help it against Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Western alliance is seriously considering whether to send advanced fighters to Ukraine.
All troubling, but what has me on edge today is the number of mass shootings in our country during the first 6.5 weeks of 2023. There have been 84 mass shootings in the US from January 1, 2023 through February 19, 2023, with 15 mass shootings in the last seven days alone and nearly 120 dead victims. Relentlessly, another shooting took place on February 22, 2023, in Orlando, FL, leaving three dead and two injured.
Dana Nessel, Michigan Attorney General, spoke from a personal perspective about the Michigan State U. shooting. Not only is she Michigan's chief law enforcement officer, she has two sons who attend MSU and who were on campus during the shooting. Speaking on the one hand with her law enforcement personnel and the other with her sons, she epitomized the conflict between the political and personal that haunts gun violence in the US.
There are a number of laws that could be passed and which should be upheld as consistent with the full language of the Second Amendment, including an assault weapons ban. To be clear, there is no uniform definition of assault weapon but a sensible summary based on federal and state laws should include primarily semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that are able to accept detachable magazines and possess one or more other features.
In 1994, Congress passed a ban on assault weapons that "grandfathered" existing assault weapons. Also, it contained no limit on the use of high capacity magazines. It expired in 2004 and was not renewed. A 2022 study of the 1994 ban shows that deaths from mass shootings declined for most of the term of the ban, except for 1999 with the horrific Columbine High School shooting. Then, after the end of the ban, deaths from mass shootings have again climbed. https://theconversation.com/did-the-assault-weapons-ban-of-1994-bring-down-mass-shootings-heres-what-the-data-tells-us-184430. So there is statistical evidence of at least a strong correlation, if not causation, that an assault weapons ban can be effective and lead to a decline in mass shooting deaths. A logical follow on would be to ban the sale of high capacity magazines. If the Supreme Court truly looks at history, I am pretty sure that large capacity magazines were not used and did not exist when the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791.
Other logical restrictions should require several day waiting periods for obtaining a gun license, and at least passing a written test about gun safety. After all, this is what drivers must do to obtain a license, and cars can be be equally deadly as guns. Also, extreme risk laws, allowing for a petition for an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), have been passed in 19 states. These laws allow a petitioner to present detailed allegations that they face imminent danger. The defendant may respond and if a judge issues and ERPO, law enforcement removes all weapons from the defendant's possession and background information on the defendant is updated.
Also, men and women convicted of domestic violence should be barred from owning guns. PBS has reported that:
"Probably about a fourth of the homicides that are done with guns in the United States are in some way related to domestic violence or family violence.
About half of the women in the U.S. who were shot and killed with a gun every year are shot and killed in domestic violence incidents. We know from the research that having a gun in a situation raises the risk of a domestic violence murder by about 400 percent."
Despite this plain evidence, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, covering Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, recently ruled that under the Supreme Court's ruling last term in Bruen, which involved a New York City gun licensing law, the fact that even though a gun ownership restriction might be "salutary" from a public health and safety perspective, the Second Amendment does not allow the court to consider those factors. Apparently, common sense no longer can play a role in preventing gun violence, according to these three jaded and cynical justices who issued the ruling.
Many Republicans, under the thrall of the NRA and an overly broad reading of the
Second Amendment to the constitution, continue to offer "thoughts and prayers" while opposing reasonable and constitutional restrictions on gun ownership because they don't address "root causes" or keep guns out of the hands of criminals. I believe Republicans and gun advocacy groups miss the point when they keep harping on thoughts and prayers, all of which seem to go unanswered.
Suppose God has answered these thoughts and prayers. First s/he led Congress to pass the 1994 assault weapon ban, which was proving effective, but Congress and the Bush administration allowed it to expire. Then, while the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment allows individual gun ownership in the Heller case, it also made clear that the right is not unlimited, is focused on self defense within a home and does not require
allowing individuals to carry dangerous weapons. Yet courts have since Heller consistently expanded its reach until we now have the nonsensical 5th Circuit decision. Next, after the ever expanding mass shootings, the majority of Americans would like to see the sensible gun ownership restrictions outlined above put into place, yet right wing Republicans stand firmly the way. When politicians like Ted Cruz offer "thoughts and prayers" I can hear God respond, "I gave you an assault weapon ban that worked, I provided a narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment that would restrict ownership of assault weapons, I have provided statistical evidence that assault weapons bans work and I have helped people come up with other ways to lessen gun violence. What more do you want me to do?"