Gun Violence Control: An Argument for a Comprehensive Strategy

Paul Evans

In the shadow of these events it is easy, too easy, to throw up our hands and walk away in disgust and disdain. The siren’s call of surrender is seductive; "moving on" to other more "pressing" issues can be justified as both necessary and unavoidable – given the demonstrable power of the NRA to dispatch all threats - imaginary or not - to their conceptions of liberty through gun ownership.

Sometimes the "perfect" really is the enemy of the "good." In these instances advocates for change realize, often too late, that incremental progress was possible - if only for a moment, if only for a small tweak to the plan.

There was a day not that long ago when our leaders recognized "half a loaf" as a victory, knowing that the rest of the loaf could come in future years as people became comfortable with the implemented changes.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre a flurry of proposals for action were introduced for consideration. In February it became obvious that most of these proposed changes could not, would not, pass the US Congress.

Last month the universal background check (once favored by the NRA) failed to pass the US Senate and effectively died.

This past week, at least according local news reporting, the Oregon Legislature sent the "remaining gun bills" to exile (and likely death) in the Senate Rule Committee.

For all practical purposes, the so-called “gun debate” appears to be over – at least for now.

In the shadow of these events it is easy, too easy, to throw up our hands and walk away in disgust and disdain. The siren’s call of surrender is seductive; "moving on" to other more "pressing" issues can be justified as both necessary and unavoidable – given the demonstrable power of the NRA to dispatch all threats - imaginary or not - to their conceptions of liberty through gun ownership.

It is telling that the NRA can defeat the will of 80% of Americans. Few organizations in history have amasses such capacity. The US Congress will not resolve this issue anytime soon – if ever.

Fortunately, we have an altenative to Congressional "will."

We the People are citizens of a Federal System of governance: the US Government and the “Several States” share responsibilities for safety and security - the so-called "police powers" were originally the exclusive domain of the states. And the creativity, innovation, and relationships in play at the state level, may yield both a direction as well as the motivation for national progress.

Perhaps it is time to revisit alternatives that were previously discounted by our representative bodies.

First, we must reorient the debate: what we seek is not “gun control” – control of guns. We seek “gun violence control” – and the difference between these two phrases matters.

Second, we must recast the debate: instead of arguing over what the original intent of the Founders was (or was not) regarding the 2nd Amendment – let us modernize the agreement between the governed and our government.

Third, we must bring people together and find ways to provide the citizens with a comprehensive approach – something that once passed, can – and will – produce tangible results.

It is time to consider the following proposals:

1. Amendment of the US Constitution expressly granting the US Congress and the States the power to define the 2nd Amendment (with specific-provisions for home defense, hobby, and hunting), munitions, and sales of weaponry;

2. Statutory requirement for registry of automatic weapons (hand guns as well as rifles) through the same agency that regulates and registers concealed weapons (in Oregon, this would be through the county sheriff offices);

3. Implementation of a federal and state tax structure for munitions that incentivizes lesser lethal choices (hunting rounds cheaper than hand gun munitions, assault weapon munitions taxed at higher rates);

4. Expansion of statutory powers for removal of gun rights from certain/specific types of offenses (in many cases, non-violent offenses do not carry automatic negation of gun ownership rights – DUI should be included);

5. The US Government, the State of Oregon, and local governments (counties, cities, school districts, public safety districts) should develop a 20 year plan for reinvestment in mental health care services – with an automatic placement on the 2013 Ballot for a funding package);

6. The State of Oregon should be provided added authorities, programming, and support for permanent, secured, care for individuals with the science-based profile traits associated with mass murder – with respecting the rights of appeal and annual review;

7. The State of Oregon should develop a set of passive defense standards for any/all public spaces – especially schools. Implementation would be similar to the statewide seismic rehabilitation program but with more funding available for grants, and increased local tax structure flexibilities for near-term added costs;

Americans need Washington to be invested in a long-term solution, but we must not wait for them to lead. Thus far, actions have not matched words.

We must take action at the neighborhood, county, and state levels. And it is time we developed and implemented a comprehensive approach that fundamentally changes our present, policies that secure our future.

There is no perfect plan. The principles included are offered for consideration with an understanding of compromise, with faith in the rationality and judgment of the citizenry - when provided all the available evidence.

There will never be a single solution for the problems we are facing. The past thirty years have been a time of significant transition and there are a myriad of contributing factors to the spike in massacre-style tragedies.

It is a sad irony that even as our overall crime numbers continues to go "down" (as in fewer crimes per thousand); the shock value of "mad-gunman" events continues to rise: our fascination with infamy has stirred something we must identify and learn to manage.

In the meantime, we cannot allow the inability to do everything - be an obstacle to trying to do a few things. And it is in that spirit this list of proposals is offered.

Let us come together and reason. Let us find a roadmap for progress - implemented one small, but certain, step at a time.

There is no time to waste: the 2014 Legislative Session will be upon us before we know it. We must start now, building a bipartisan approach that can – and will – pass.

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