Home > Uncategorized > Breaking the deadlock on guns – posted 5/29/2022

Breaking the deadlock on guns – posted 5/29/2022

It is hard not to feel hopeless and cynical in the face of mass shootings like Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. The national failure to act is long-standing and could not be more apparent. Beyond sending prayers, all legislation has been sclerotically deadlocked in Congress. Republicans, captive to the gun lobby, stonewall. Democrats lack the votes to move forward any gun control legislation.

If we step back though, it should be clear that these mass shootings are not inevitable. They are largely preventable. It is not a given that the United States should have a gun homicide rate 25 times higher than peer advanced countries. The problem is too easy access to too many guns.

There are estimated to be over 400 million guns in the U.S.. Constitutional protection for gun ownership does not preclude reasonable regulation of guns. No constitutional right is absolute. While the Supreme Court appears poised to loosen gun restrictions in a New York case, that does not mean that all gun control reforms will not pass constitutional muster.

In spite of the current political balance of forces and the likelihood the filibuster can stop reform now, there is a strong and popular gun control agenda which could be winning but it requires a long-term perspective. It will take some years to achieve to get the votes. Such an agenda could, over time, significantly reduce mass shootings.

The organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, has an agenda of reforms: background checks on all gun sales, red flag laws, prohibiting people with dangerous histories from having guns, banning assault weapons, and barring high capacity magazines and bump stock devices.

Background checks are currently required for all gun sales by licensed gun dealers but not for unlicensed sellers. Unlicensed sellers could be doing business at gun sales or online. If you have a felony conviction or a domestic violence restraining order or some other reason to evade a licensed seller, no universal background check fast tracks lethal access. Why in the world should this be allowed?

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, one in three mass shooters have been legally prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of their shooting. We should not be making it so easy for mass shooters.

Red flag laws allow relatives or law enforcement to temporarily remove a person’s access to guns when there are warning signs that the person is in crisis and they might harm themselves, family members or others. Such laws require a due process hearing before a judge.

Nineteen states already have such laws. Everytown for Gun Safety says that in 56% of mass shootings, the shooter exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting. In 2020, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed a red flag bill that passed the N.H. Legislature. Do we really want people who are threatening others or themselves to have access to lethal weapons? That is crazy.

One thread that has been inadequately explored by the media is the relationship between mass shooting and hatred of women. In so many mass shootings, misogyny motivates violence and guns have had a major presence just as they have in everyday domestic violence. Guns are typically the weapon of choice.

Guns seem to provide abusers a sense of empowerment they are lacking in their life. Earlier in my life, when I represented domestic violence victims in court, I was struck by how abusers used their guns to threaten, intimidate and control their victims. More than half of mass shootings are domestic violence-related.

Preventing people with dangerous histories from having guns should be a no-brainer. If you are a convicted felon, a domestic violence abuser under a restraining order, a convicted stalker or someone suffering from severe mental illness, guns are not for you. Under these circumstances, the law should mandate forfeiture of lethal weapons and gun rights.

Now there is a creepy online subculture of incels, misogyny and male supremacy. Mass shootings are almost exclusively committed by men. We should be studying how and why male rage is playing.a role in these shootings. The mass murder committed by an incel in Isla Vista, California in 2014 is a blueprint and reflects an ideological viewpoint.

Quite a few of these mass shootings connect up to a violent ideology of the far right. The shooters are often performing for an online audience of male supremacist and white supremacist haters. It is generally a mistake to see these shooters as lone wolves. I suggest, as in Buffalo, their motivation is revealing and provides clues for those investigating why these shootings are happening.

Mass shooters typically now use assault weapons which are really military weapons. They fire far more bullets much faster than manual-action hunting rifles. When assault weapons are used in a mass shooting six times as many people are shot. Each round from an assault weapon also inflicts greater damage to the human body than a round from a typical handgun.

High capacity magazines and devices like bump stocks also have no legitimate civilian use. They are about killing more people faster. Bump stocks are used to convert rifles into machine guns. The 2017 Las Vegas shooter who used AR-type rifles with bump stocks shot over a thousand rounds in a matter of minutes. He killed 59 and injured over 500 others.

As with assault rifles, high capacity magazines (defined as ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds) lead to many more shot quickly without needing to pause to reload. Mass shooting incidents where the firearm was equipped with a high-capacity magazine resulted in nearly five times as many people shot and twice as many fatalities.

It is highly likely those opposed to any gun control will talk about the slippery slope and how gun control would interfere with self-defense. It should be clear that such arguments are false on their face. Many gun control reforms do not interfere with law-abiding gun owners’ rights.

There are no miracle cures for America’s mass shootings but that does not mean that nothing can be done. It is going to take political will and a long-term strategy committed to reducing the incidence of mass shootings. Mass shootings are a horrible indictment of America and they should be considered unacceptable for any civilized society.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Scott D.McGuffin
    May 30, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you Jonathan for your well written essay on gun violence and especially about the anger driving white supremacy.

    In your essay in today’s Monitor I applaud your thoughts and suggestions. Like you and many thoughtful people I continue to be baffled by the amount of fear-driven anger of so many in NH and nation wide. It is mind numbing and soul wrenching.

    On a completely different subject I note with interest your Lower Marion connection. My good friend Thomas Baird Fulweiler resided there and his father Thomas was the town administrator for Lower Marion Township. I spent a lot of time there over the years.

    You probably don’t remember me but as Chairman of the DES Appellate Board you appeared a number of times and were one of the few advocates that understood the law in that context.

    Keep writing for the Monitor! I always look forward to your writing. Your work is sadly one of the only voices raising the alarm on important social and political issues in NH.

    Scott McGuffin
    Northfield NH

    • May 31, 2022 at 12:20 am

      Thanks so much, Scott. I will write you privately but I do remember the Appellate Board hearings. Unemployment advocacy was a passion for me. I always liked that work. And thanks for reading my stuff! Jon

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