BRACK:  More gun violence prompts reprint of 2016 column

Editor’s Note:  Following the Sunday night Las Vegas shooting that was the worst mass shooting in the country’s history, we’re reprinting a 2016 column that urges America to do something serious to confront the epidemic of gun violence. 

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  After the Orlando shootings, my wife wrote a letter to several newspaper editors that made me think.

She boiled all of the back and forth about escalating gun violence in America into a simple, salient point that many seem to have missed:  It’s become an issue of national security.

The glut of guns solely made for killing people — handguns and assault rifles —  is changing America into a country where fearful people feel they need more and bigger guns to protect themselves.  They respond to patronizing rhetoric from groups like the National Rifle Association who taunt that the federal government is going to take away people’s guns.  Throughout the seven years of President Obama’s term, we’ve heard such chants time and time again, yet Obama hasn’t taken away guns.

But as more people buy into this negative narrative and get more guns, those who are unbalanced or have motivations to be noticed in the ever-accommodating media take advantage of the caustic environment by doing things that shock everyone.  And then we wonder how the latest bad thing happened, pointing fingers at this group or that.  All the while, we feed the negativity that is pulling apart the democratic fabric that wrapped the country for more than 200 years.

If we don’t do something to change the nation’s trajectory after tragedies like those in Charleston, Newtown and Orlando [and now Las Vegas], the optimistic, bold America that most of us knew when we grew up will become a memory. In its place will be the opposite — a pessimistic, vengeful country focused on individualism, not teamwork.  In its place will become a weakened America that our enemies want.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  If we pull together and do some common sense things to curb the almost instant accessibility to guns that are made to kill people, we can keep our ideals and keep from spiraling into more bitterness.

To get a handle on what could be done to reduce gun violence, we asked people who deal with guns and their impact every day.  Three prominent police chiefs agreed better enforcement of laws on the books.  Two of three supported longer and better background checks to make sure the wrong people don’t get guns.

“I look at it as a violence prevention perspective,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen has said.  “All we’re trying to do is determine that those who are buying a gun are in fact eligible under federal and state law to possess it. I don’t think that inhibits anybody’s Second Amendment rights.”

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, said, “I think we have enough gun laws on the books. We should effectively enforce those laws. There are times when those people who should not possess a handgun are not being prosecuted as sufficiently as they could. Community involvement is also important. People should reach out to law enforcement about possible criminal activity including those who may have a gun when they are prohibited from possessing that weapon.”

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said states needed to have consistent gun laws.  “South Carolina gun laws are not a deterrent,” he said.  “A person prohibited from possessing a firearm (theoretically) can be arrested 10 different times with a gun and the punishment is the same each time.  We should have graduated severe penalties for repeat offenders of gun violations.”  He, like Mullen, said longer times for background checks would help keep guns out of the wrong hands.

We could, however, go further.  We could ban assault rifles that allow people to spray bullets as fast as they can pull a trigger.  We could get rid of large capacity magazines for bullets.  We could be tougher about gun shows.  We could make sure there’s better connectivity between law enforcement databases to enhance background checks.

We could do a lot of things.  What we don’t need, however, is inaction … again.  Let’s not fall prey to the divisive rhetoric.  As someone said during the mourning for the victims in Orlando, it’s not time to be Republican or Democratic.  It’s time to be American and solve a festering problem.  It is a matter of national security.

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One Comment

  1. I hate to propose a barbaric response to this issue, but nothing will galvanize the public to demand more stringent controls on assault weapons and comprehensive background checks than for the media to start showing the dead in living color. Imagine if the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre had been spread in living color across the front page of the NY Times and other media. The public would have been traumatized into action that the NRA could not have stopped and we would have had controls in place years ago. I know it sounds barbaric and would be horrible to the victims’ families but I can think of nothing else to get much needed action on this issue.