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The Elbert Files: What to do about guns?


Science magazine debunked a common gun violence myth a couple of weeks ago when it editorialized immediately after the Uvalde, Texas, massacre of 19 elementary students and two teachers.

Mental health isn’t the problem, the magazine said, because other countries with similar mental health issues rarely experience mass shootings.

“It’s access to guns that is the problem,” the editorial declared. (The 18-year-old gunman had legally purchased two assault rifles days before walking into Robb Elementary School and opening fire.)

A growing number of business executives are reaching similar conclusions, including Kum & Go Chief Executive Tanner Krause. 

“Guns are easier to buy in this country than beer, cigarettes or an automobile,” Krause wrote in a June 6 Des Moines Register opinion piece, in which he explained that a gunman had killed a Kum and Go employee in Springfield, Mo., two years ago. 

In recent weeks, there has been a flood of gun violence. Victims include two women killed outside an Ames church on June 2.

“More guns is not the answer,” Krause wrote.

He’s right. No other country has mass shootings like we have in the United States.

The United Kingdom is a good example. After a single gunman with an automatic handgun killed 16 students and one teacher at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, Scotland, in 1996, the entire country came together and passed stiff gun laws. 

Conservative Prime Minister John Majors won passage of a law banning possession of “high caliber” handguns, and his successor, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair widened the ban.

Firearm regulation in the United Kingdom didn’t just happen. It has a history that began with the Pistols Act of 1903, which required licenses for gun owners. As a result, today civilian ownership of virtually all firearms, including stun guns and pepper spray weapons, are prohibited in England and Scotland.

But the truth is we don’t need to look beyond our own borders to find evidence that firearm restrictions save lives. Our own Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was a 10-year ban on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, as well as large-capacity ammunition magazines. 

But when it came time to renew the ban in 2004, Congress, burdened with significant gun lobby contributions, refused. They claimed the ban had little impact on gun violence in the United States, which was only partially true because there were so many other legal firearms available for people seeking to do damage.

But once the ban was lifted, there was a huge spike in mass shootings. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that “mass shooting fatalities were 70 percent less likely to occur during the federal ban period” than during the 13 years before or 13 years after the ban.

But, you ask, how do we fix the problem?

We start by changing the culture, by hammering away at all of the wrong-minded gun protection laws put in place in recent decades. 

But what about the Second Amendment, you say. Doesn’t the Second Amendment give practically everyone the right to own and carry firearms?

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, it does.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Here’s how Science magazine answered the Second Amendment question:  

“A lot of things have changed since 1789, and there are many times when the American people have concluded that rights granted at the nation’s founding could not be reconciled with modern conditions and knowledge.”

For example, the article noted, “It was decided that owning other human beings was not consistent with the founding principles of America. It was decided that prohibiting women from voting was not consistent with representative democracy.

“And now it needs to be decided that unfettered gun ownership by American citizens is not consistent with a flourishing country where people can worship, shop and be educated without fear.”

The alternative, it said, is unthinkable: 

“A nation of children threatened by gun violence does not have a future.” 

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