It’s all about the numbers:
There are about 325 million people in the United States. We will know better after the Census is completed next year. Of this number, about 42 million are between ages 15 and 24. Slightly less than half of them are male. This age group is the primary source of shooters, both mass and street corner. They are also entitled to due process.
There are about 310 million firearms available. Of these, 110 million are rifles, 114 million are handguns and 86 million are shotguns. Of the rifles, some 4 million are military-style, large-magazine, semi-automatic “assault” rifles. These are by and large legally owned and constitute personal property, the surrender of which will require compensation. But as a class they were at one time banned and could be again.
We have about 25,000 towns and cities, 3,000 counties and around 18, 000 police departments. We also have 100,000 public schools in 16,000 school districts. All of these will have to work to some kind of standard and be equipped with comparable resources to “harden” and protect our most vulnerable public spaces. They also will have to provide response in all the rest of their areas of responsibility. Each has its own chain of command, policies and procedures, which will not be quickly or uniformly updated.
Which of the problem areas getting media coverage today are the most important? Banning assault weapons? “Red-flagging” unstable persons to remove them from guns? Increased mental health surveillance, treatment and interventions? Hardening public facilities? Putting police resource officers into every school? Training citizens to use their weapons more effectively against these threats? Training the citizens in active shooter drills? Banning violent video games, websites, movies, etc.?
They all are important.
What is daunting is the sheer magnitude of the problem and the number of agencies that will be involved at all levels of government.
And this is but one set of urgent problems facing society. In addition to immigration, opioid abuse, high suicide rates, income inequality and still pervasive sexual inequality, to name some of the more obvious issues, we have what looks like a long term trade war with China, global warming and what appears to be an unstable administration.
Those who expect comprehensive gun law and policy creation should contemplate the status of comprehensive immigration reform. All of these issues require legislative action. Four-fifths of our states have part-time legislatures and our Congress is behaving like it is also part-time.
The parliamentary posturing of leaders of both houses is getting in the way of getting the people’s urgent business addressed. President Harry Truman, faced with Congressional resistance in 1948, called them back from their campaigning adjournment; he was the last president to use his Constitutional authority to do so.
Is anyone “up there” listening? The numbers are not going to get better.
Bruce P. Schoch