Saturday, February 17, 2018

GateHouse: Access to assault rifles must be part of the dialogue

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 16, 2018
The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, marks the country’s 18th school shooting since the beginning of the year. Not all the shootings are mass killings, but is any school shooting acceptable?
The non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund doesn’t think so. Everytown uses a straightforward definition for a school shooting: Any time a firearm discharges a live round of ammunition inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the media and confirmed by law enforcement or school officials.
According to Everytown’s website their mission is to “improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the means to reduce it — by conducting groundbreaking original research, developing evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge ...”
Why do we need an independent, charitable organization to research gun violence? The simple answer is no one else is doing it.
Last year, following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Democrats in Congress revealed that the federal ”(G)overnment dedicate $240 million a year to traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year for food safety and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually.”
How can that be?
Have you ever heard of Jay Dickey? In 1996, as a member of Congress, Dickey was a self-proclaimed “point-man” for the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Arkansas Republican authored a now infamous amendment to an otherwise obscure appropriations bill that removed $2.6 million from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) budget, the amount the agency’s injury center had spent on firearms-related research the previous year.
Since the Dickey Amendment passed, the United States has spent almost nothing on research for firearm injuries. To no surprise, gun deaths now out pace automobile deaths in nearly half the states nationwide.
That’s not to mention the nearly 300 school shootings in America since 2013—an average of about one a week.
Law enforcement officials said the Parkland killer legally purchased the assault weapon used in the attack. Should an 18- or 19-year-old buying an assault rifle raise a red flag?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he wants the Justice Department to study how mental illness and gun violence intersect, to better understand how law enforcement can use existing laws to intervene before school shootings happen. Does that mean that funding will be returned to the CDC for research? Not likely.
“It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening in our country,” Sessions told a group of sheriffs in Washington, D.C. In “every one of these cases, we’ve had advance indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening.”
Wouldn’t we all be better off if no one, but law enforcement and the military, had access to assault rifles?
Two years ago, an organization known as Doctors for America, presented a petition signed by more than 2,000 physicians in all 50 states demanding an end to the Dickey Amendment.
“It’s disappointing to me that we’ve made little progress in the past 20 years in finding solutions to gun violence,” Dr. Nina Agrawal, a New York pediatrician told Think Progress. “In my career, I’ve seen children (sic) lives saved from measles, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, motor vehicle accidents ... because of federal scientific data and research. It’s frustrating that the CDC is not permitted to do the same type of research for gun violence.”
The problem in this country is the easy access to guns. How many suicides could be averted if a troubled individual couldn’t just walk over to a desk drawer and pull out a gun? How many mass shootings could have been thwarted or neutralized if the shooter didn’t have access to an assault rifle.
When we talk about mass violence in schools, the elephant in the room is the firearm. Examining school violence without considering access to firearms is like talking about highway safety without considering the impact of automobiles. There can be no meaningful or responsible conversation about violence without guns being part of the dialogue.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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