Editorial: Falling far short

Pictured is an AR-15 modern sporting rifle by Armalite.

By Dexter K. Oliver

There have been 54 mass shootings in the U.S. since the Uvalde school shootings on May 24, 2022 (Gun Violence Archives on the Internet). Remember a mass shooting involves 4 or more victims at the same time in the same place.

Our weekends are now especially dangerous. Memorial Day weekend alone had 13 such incidents and the following weekend had 11. It seems that it is now okay to spice up a boring weekend by going to the local mall, grocery store, church, or family gathering and hosing down people with handguns, rifles, or shotguns.

The Congressional bill being floated to stop gun violence in our country is being praised as the first step in 30 years. It does not go nearly far enough nor address mammoth underlying problems.

The bill would create or implement red flag laws in all states, increase mental health programs, address the “boyfriend” loophole, enhance background checks for gun buyers under 21 years old, clarify what a federally licensed gun dealer really is, and add to school security resources.

What it doesn’t target are the very bedrock aspects of this epidemic of violence and so our elected officials in Congress are once again going to choose money from gun manufacturers and the NRA over American lives.

Neuroscientists have proven that the prefrontal cortex of the human brain, which helps curb impulsive behavior, is not fully developed until one reaches 25. Because of this, the minimum age to buy firearms, now that we are no longer an agrarian society, should be raised at least to 21.

It has been well-documented that only 25-28% of all mass shootings, whether in schools or other public and private venues, can be attributed to the clinical or legal definition of mental health problems. Most shootings result from societal issues ranging from people reaching a breaking point due to bullying, poverty, despair, drug and alcohol abuse, the prevalence of violent video games, broken homes, isolation, and identity challenges.

So-called “assault weapons” such as AR-15s and their many clones, as well as semi-automatic handguns, can take high-capacity magazines of 20-100 rounds each. They were designed only to kill as many human targets as possible in the shortest amount of time. Police are at a distinct disadvantage facing these perpetrators. And bullets from an AR-15 will easily pass through the everyday police body armor. Both these guns and magazines will apparently never be outlawed but they can be controlled. They should all be restricted under the Class III weapons classification (like submachine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers) which would make it much harder for a person to possess such and there would be a better paper trail.

There were no laws being considered about firearm storage to keep guns out of the hands of kids or mentally compromised individuals yet such regulations have proven to save lives. As does a longer waiting, or “cooling down”, period to purchase a firearm. Congress knows all of this. They spent taxpayer money, through the Department of Justice, on reports and books that detail all of these points yet they fail to follow their own advice.

As long as we keep voting the same names into positions where laws are made, and until the unfortunate day when these politicians lose their own children to senseless gun violence, we’re on our own. State governors can certainly pick up the slack left by the federal government, but that requires a real backbone and putting the public ahead of political aspirations. How often do we see that?

Dexter K. Oliver is a freelance writer and registered voter from Duncan, Arizona.