Another school shooting, more calls for gun control and President Trump.
Two days of back to back presidential listening sessions, broadcast live and uncensored is an unprecedented first in American history. We are used to scripted town hall meetings and polarized rhetoric after a tragedy. This was different, very different. The question is, will the ideas proposed for gun control, security measures and other changes actually work?
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
Since we are talking about President Trump, of course we must start with his tweet. He threw out 3 somewhat gun control proposals: Comprehensive Background Checks with emphasis on Mental Health, raise the age to buy a rifle to 21 and end the sale of bump stocks.
Bump Fire Rifle Stock The Demon Of Las Vegas – Bump stocks have been on the gun control radar already, but will a ban on bump stocks save lives? The short answer is, No. First, we all know that the bump fire stock was used in the Las Vegas attack and people quickly learned that the bump fire stock allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire at a near fully automatic rate. That being said, those familiar with firearms and the bump stock will tell you that the increased fire rate comes with a dramatic loss of accuracy. Bump fire stocks have been used in only one criminal act that I could find, Las Vegas, despite 100s of thousands having been sold since 2010. Reason Magazine published an article suggesting that the tragedy in Las Vegas might well have had a HIGHER death toll if the shooter (who I will not name) had NOT been using a bump stock.
The concept behind the bump fire stock is simple. Inventor Jeremiah Cottle told The Albany News in 2011:
“I toyed around with the idea of a sling type stock for a couple of months, and then one night the idea just popped into my head,” said Cottle. “I went out into the shop and made the first prototype in about two hours out of a piece of lumber and some metal. I tested it the next day and knew I had something.”
You may be able to ban the retail production models of bump fire stocks, but can you ban something that can be made in a garage out of scrap wood and metal?
Comprehensive Background Checks – This is always the go to gun control proposal every time something bad happens although the “emphasis on Mental Health” is a bit of a new twist. The fatal flaw of background checks is two-fold. First they are only as good as the information put into the system and most mass shooters to date have bought their guns legally and passed the background checks.
With regard to mental illness, the current AFT criteria for a prohibited possessor related to mental health is someone “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” Mental health treatment or diagnosis does not currently prohibit someone from gun ownership. However, to get that information into the system requires violating people’s privacy and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) laws that provide data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.
We protect that medical information so that it can’t be used to discriminate against citizens or to deny citizens their rights without due process. Like having to be committed to a mental institution or adjudicated in court as a mental defective to lose your right to bear arms.
The other part of the fatal flaw of background checks is that you can legally buy a gun WITHOUT ONE. Private sales have long been on the anti-gun lobby hit list, but private sales are impossible to regulate.
Universal Background Checks: An American Fantasy – In order to implement a “universal background check,” government would not only have to violate individual gun rights, but private property rights and unreasonable search and seizure protections as well. Every firearm in America would have to be located, registered to an individual and regularly inventoried to detect potential undocumented transfers.
Making participation voluntary would defeat the entire stated purpose of “universal background check” system. Only those with no ill intent, “law-abiding citizens,” would comply. Even with penalties for non-compliance those with evil intent, be it criminal or terroristic, are already aware of the potential repercussions of their actions and would be undeterred.
Age Restrictions – Here we get into the absolute schizophrenic insanity of American culture and politics. Currently, age 18 is considered a legal adult. At 18, you can vote, sign contracts, buy cigarettes, be tried as an adult and given the death penalty. Currently at 18, you can also buy a rifle (but not a handgun) and join the military and be issued a rifle AND a handgun and much, much more. However, an 18 year old “legal adult” can’t buy a beer or a handgun. You have to be more adult at 21 for that, but you can be tried as an adult and given the death penalty as young as 14, 15 or 16. Are you seeing the schizophrenic inconsistency yet? When are we going to define what an adult is once and for all.
Here’s a novel idea… Science! According to the University of Rochester Medical Center – Understanding the teen brain, the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until about age 25.
In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.
I think we can all agree that “adulting” should be left to those who, at least medically speaking, think rationally rather than emotionally. If you want to look at age restrictions then set the age of adulthood at 25 across the board.
- No Guns
- No Voting
- No Alcohol
- No Marriage
- No Contracts
- No Military Service
- No Being Tried as an Adult
- No Death Penalty, etc.
Until age 25. On your 25th birthday you become an adult, fully vested with all of your constitutionally protected rights and adult responsibilities.
That would be the logical, rational approach, but politics is anything BUT logical or rational. Despite adults supposedly using the prefrontal cortex for rational thought, politics is almost always emotionally driven. That and political self-interest (reelection), of course. Parents may cry foul as well. They would still be legally responsible for their kids actions until they are 25. Although, Pew Research reports that it’s becoming more common for young adults to live at home with their parents – and for longer stretches.
So, of the three proposals in President Trump’s tweet, none show any promise of making any significant change in school shootings, any mass shootings for that matter or even gun violence in general. #AdultAt25, might show some promise though.
So, what will work?
For that, we go to another Presidential Tweet:
Today, it was my great honor to host a School Safety Roundtable at the @WhiteHouse with State and local leaders, law enforcement officers, and education officials.
There is nothing more important than protecting our children. They deserve to be safe, and we will deliver! pic.twitter.com/WhC2AxgWXO
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
President Trump also said that “gun free zones” need to go. They are literally massacre magnets, almost all public mass shootings have happened in “gun free zones.” Mass shooting events last on average about 3 minutes while police response times are 6-8 minutes or more. Many on the gun control bandwagon want to give law enforcement agencies more power to investigate and restrict citizens gun rights. The argument being that only train law enforcement should deal with these situation. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement has no constitutional duty to protect people from harm.
In the end, gun control proposals like background checks, banning firearm technology, age limits or even banning weapons entirely will have little if any effect. Hardened targets are the only realistic and effective means of protection. Armed and trained citizens, able to respond in the moment to meet a threat with equal or greater force has any chance of success. It would be effective as both a deterrent and a response. It will work in schools, malls, movie theaters, etc.
President Trump has taken input from victims, survivors and families and has put a variety of ideas out there. Now we will see if politicians and the American people have the political courage and intestinal fortitude to do what is right.