Flags fly at half-staff. Children are scared to go to school. Mothers even panic when taking their children to Walmart. Meanwhile, Republican defenders of the Second Amendment are poised to lose the next election.
This is the new reality after the twin tragedies of Dayton and El Paso.
Democratic presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, the Irishman turned Hispanic, could not wait to rush back to his hometown and pontificate atop the warm bodies still lying in the El Paso super-mart parking lot. Sure, a crazy man pulled the trigger, suggested O’Rourke, but Donald Trump committed the murder.
Accurate or not, many mothers agreed. So, we, as Republicans, must pay attention.
We can retain our right to keep and bear arms so long as we understand what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson understood in 1949. It was then that he warned us not to “convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.” Blind opposition to any new gun law does just that.
Now, we should not impose restrictions on gun purchases that merely make people feel good. If legislation is one answer to mass shooting, then that legislation must actually curb gun violence. Universal background checks won’t help. Many mass shooters pass the test and buy their firearms legally.
Nor will banning assault weapons help. They are banned in California and New York where mass shootings happen regularly. Laws must emanate from data, not emotion. And new law must be effective.
What we know about mass shooters is that they are generally either young gangsters who shoot up a neighborhood or young crazies who shoot up a festival, a school or a Walmart. The common denominator is often youth and that is the group upon which Congress must concentrate.
For instance, the El Paso alleged shooter was 21. The apparent shooter in Dayton was 24. Even the Gilroy Garlic Festival gunman was only 19. Of course, not all mass shooters are young. The baseball field sniper who attempted to kill Republican members of Congress was 66. But, we cannot sacrifice the practical while wishing for the perfect. Therefore, a law directed toward curbing gun possession by young people should be enacted.
Prior to the age of about 25, the brains of human beings are not fully developed. Rental car companies and the military understand that fact. Young people are reckless, fearless and often believe themselves to be invincible. That is why they willingly act as cannon fodder and rush into the guns of an enemy entrenched on a beach. It is also why they have a propensity to take such risks with their rented Toyotas that Hertz and others charge them extra. In Dayton and El Paso it is why young men donned body armor and felt empowered to vindictively spray public places with projectiles of death.
Some suggest that we can prevent mass shootings by banning the sale of weapons to the mentally ill or to those who commit either violent felonies or domestic violence. But, the juvenile records of young people are often masked. Before age 25, young men may not amass a record serious enough to prevent them from passing a background check. Such laws don’t work.
The law must be changed. The right of civilians to purchase or possess a firearm should be restricted to those over the age of 25.Those under 25 could use firearms, but only in the presence of someone over the age of 30. Here, it is important to note that many mass shooters are young loners. Hence, the requirement for a 30-year-old chaperone would give the public a small amount of extra protection.
Of course, this new law would not apply to police officers or trained security personnel. But, for most everyone else, the right to own a firearm would be reserved only for those whose brains are fully mature.
In the inner city, the law would permit police to disarm most youthful gang members. In the suburbs, it would discourage criminals like both the 19-year-old Florida high school assassin and the 23-year-old who killed 32 at Virginia Tech. Of course the NRA will hate this idea. But, especially Republicans must concede that citizens will not re-elect a president or seat legislators who refuse to keep their children safe.