Hiltzik: The shallowness of the congressional gun deal

Forty US senators spent much of Sunday and Monday praising themselves for achieving what they called “a pointless, bipartisan proposal” for federal gun legislation.

The news media and gun-safety groups fell into the mix, commenting that the proposal, if enacted by Congress, would be “the most significant national response in decades to actions violating mass gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, Everytown president of Gun Safety.

Let’s hope the senators don’t break their arm and pat themselves on the back. For anyone interested in enacting truly effective measures to stem the tide of gun violence in this country, the senators’ announcement could be deeply disappointing.

This is the closest in a very long time that the federal government has introduced reforms that are likely to have measurable effects.

– Garen Wintemute, UC Davis

Instead of taking a bipartisan stance on gun safety, the proposal shows how far we are from achieving real gun safety legislation at the federal level.

If this is the best our federal legislators can do in the immediate aftermath of the murder of 19 students in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, and after the horrifying, heartbreaking testimony from the family victims and a doctor have to confront the carnage, then we’re in a very bad place.

Let’s continue to heat up senators’ enthusiasm with a dose of reality: There is no guarantee that any legislation based on this framework will pass the Senate. In fact, there is no guarantee that any legislation based on this framework will even be drafted.

The gun lobby knows this. As my colleagues Nolan D. McCaskill and Jennifer Haberkorn reported, National Rifle Assn. said they will withhold the response until the full text of the invoice is published.

But the NRA also said on Twitter that it would “continue to oppose any attempt to insert gun control policies, initiatives to replace constitutional procedural safeguards & efforts to aimed at depriving citizens of the fundamental right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves/their loved ones against this or any other law” – firing a shot in the bow of the drafters of the bill, possibly say so.

That is not to say that there is nothing positive in the proposal. Any crack in the GOP’s staunch opposition to arms laws should be seen as progressive.

“I’ve been in this field for 40 years, and this is the closest in a very long time that the federal government has,” said Garen Wintemute, head of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis. reform has any chance of having a measurable effect. I am encouraged by the development. ”

Consider the proposal, as outlined by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who negotiated its terms with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The 20 senators signed include 10 Republicans, 9 Democrats and Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who voted by secret ballot with the Democratic Party. It should also be noted that of the 10 Republicans who have signed, four have stated their intention not to run for re-election and none of the others will run for re-election this year.

In some respects, the deal is more notable for what is omitted than what is included.

Much of it isn’t all about guns. Support for family and child mental health services, including expansion of mental health services in schools, funding of “school safety resources,” regardless of what they are, and funding mental and behavioral health telehealth programs.

The second category is programs that don’t involve face-to-face consultations, which will tell you a little bit about how effective they are.

These are commendable as they go, and most have traditionally received GOP backing. But mental health is also used by gun lobbyists as a composite explanation for mass shootings that divert attention from the fundamental issue of easy access to guns.

“The reason for a better system of mental health diagnosis and treatment is simply that the system we have is not good,” Wintemute told me. But using that fact “to prevent other good proposals from continuing to be implemented is something I object to.”

Statistics show that mental illness plays a small role in interpersonal violence, Wintemute says, and that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of armed violence than perpetrators.

But mental illness plays a huge role in self-harm and suicide, an aspect of gun violence often overshadowed by reports of mass murders and other manifestations of violence. our gun culture.

As for the actual gun provisions in the Senate, they don’t go as far as necessary. The deal will add domestic violence cases, including convictions and restraining orders, to a federal database for background checks on gun buyers. It will also require a search of the juvenile’s mental health and judicial records as part of the background check for buyers under the age of 21.

The agreement will provide resources for states to enact and administer so-called red flag laws, which could allow family members, colleagues and law enforcement to seek to eliminate access to guns. of individuals determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

Wintemute’s program tested the effectiveness of red flag orders in California and elsewhere and found promising evidence that they prevented outbreaks of violence.

Variations on the model have been made in 19 states and the District of Columbia, including red states like Florida and Indiana – most of them following the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In nine other states, they’ve been denied, and one, Oklahoma, actually outlaws red flag laws.

Providing states with new resources could fix some of the nagging problems with red flag laws: Many people don’t know they exist, and some law enforcement agencies aren’t well-versed in these, Wintemute said. what they say and how to use them.

These proposals do not include all of the policies that President Biden proposed in a prime-time nationally televised address broadcast after the Uvalde school massacre. In that speech, Biden called for an extension of the assault weapons ban that Congress enacted in 1994 and authorized to expire in 2004. He also called for expanded background checks and red flag legislation. nation.

Defenders of the Senate deal will argue its small steps open the door to more substantive legislation in the future. That sounds like wishful thinking, since it is conceivable that those who drafted it would see it as the end of the journey rather than the beginning, and would wash the hands of this problem if and when any of its terms are enacted.

That’s a problem, because the record shows that the way to prevent gun violence is through a package of multi-factor laws, not any single provision.

California has achieved the nation’s highest gun death rate by enacting a comprehensive gun safety policy that includes a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, a waiting period for buyers gun and mandatory background checks, a ban on the purchase of handguns and certain other firearms, red flag laws, and a ban on buying more than one firearm per month.

Put them all together and they prove that gun laws work, don’t violate anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights.

Negotiators will defend their deal in terms of US politics, saying it is the least they can do to meet the challenge of a gun culture that kills innocent children.

They are right. Here To be the least they could do – the least, and not enough.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-06-13/that-bipartisan-gun-deal-falls-short Hiltzik: The shallowness of the congressional gun deal

Edmund DeMarche

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