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March 13, 2018

Ask the Right Questions to Get the Right Answers

By Larry Keane

Legislative responses are pouring in to make America’s schools safer and prevent tragedies such as we’ve witnessed in Parkland, Fla., Sutherland Springs, Texas and Las Vegas. Some new laws have already enacted been in state capitals. Others are being proposed in Congress and being put forth by the White House.

Before we apply answers, the most important thing we can do is make sure we’re asking the right questions. Answers just to show we’re doing something risk focusing on the symptoms without addressing the root problem. Worse, answers to the wrong questions risk irreparable damage to our rights and liberties.

There have been numerous calls for banning certain semiautomatic rifles. Other suggestions would trade the right of due process for what could be a false sense of security. Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which among other things strips young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 of their constitutional right to purchase a long gun. NSSF opposes this and other similar legislation.

The answers are being applied before the right questions are being asked. Valid questions include:

  • Is America more dangerous today?
  • Are guns the problem?
  • Are young adults between 18 and 21 the problem?
  • Have previous gun control measures produced the results promised?

The Heritage Foundation has asked these questions. The answers Heritage researchers provide are enlightening.

Gun Ownership Up, Crime Down

As we reported ourselves, Heritage confirms that America is safer than it has been in decades. In fact, violent crime has declined steadily since the 1990s, the homicide rates of 2011 were half of what they were 20 years earlier and gun-related deaths, specifically, were also halved from 1993 to 2013. There have been minor upticks in certain violent crimes, mainly in areas of big cities and largely due to gang activity.

America is getting safer, even as firearms possession is becoming more common. There are more than 16 million modern sporting rifles in the possession of law-abiding American gun owners. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report, interim 2016 production adds more than 10 million handguns and long guns that year alone. Increased firearms ownership isn’t the problem.

Young adults aren’t the problem either. Along with the constitutional rights issue, conflating the blame for the murder of children on an age cohort is the wrong answer. When we ask the right questions, we find out those who carry out these heinous crimes have considerable mental health issues, disturbing history, or interpersonal violence. And most gun-related crimes committed by this age group are done with illegally-possessed firearms and are linked to gang activity.

Gun Control Laws Don’t Work

Promises of past gun control laws have only disarmed the law-abiding and made those who critically need the ability to protect themselves more vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control studied whether the Clinton-era “Assault Weapon Ban” had the intended effect of reducing crime. It didn’t, largely because the semi-automatic rifles they banned weren’t the problem. Neither were the standard capacity magazines they banned at the same time.

The Right Questions

When we start with the right questions, we can get to the most effective solutions.

This is why NSSF supports the White House’s plan for improving school safety that focuses on the right questions and sets aside ideology-driven proposals to limit gun rights. It is a framework of legislation, including the Fix NICS Act. That’s a bill that has 67 bipartisan cosponsors and that NSSF is confident will make a difference. It would make the FBIs National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems (NICS) work as intended by encouraging states and requiring federal agencies to upload all disqualifying criminal and mental health records for those involuntarily committed or adjudicated dangerously mentally ill.

We know that hard questions need to be asked. The answers won’t come easily, but we owe it to ourselves and to our children to be purposeful and not rush to conclusions that won’t really make them safer.

You may also be interested in: Raising Age Requirement for Rifles Won’t Protect Our Kids, But it Will Violate Constitutional Rights