Six months ago, 20 children and six adults were gunned down in their classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, by a deranged gunman.
The families of those victims all agree that as a nation we need to do more to prevent mass shootings and curb gun-related violence.
As a gun owner and a political writer for Guns.com, I concur. We need to do more. So, with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 6 things we can do as a society to help curb gun-related violence.
These are not partisan suggestions, but common sense solutions that would actually make a difference and help to save lives.
1. SROs in schools
Putting student resource officers (SRO), which are essentially sworn police officers, in schools is a no brainer.
As the New York Times reported in the past, about one-third of all public schools nationwide (23,000 schools) already have armed security on staff, according to the most recent data available for the 2009-10 school year.
It’s not a controversial idea. As mentioned, it’s already being done. It only become “controversial” when the National Rifle Association endorsed the idea, when NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, in the direct aftermath of Newtown, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Until that press conference, if you had asked anyone on the street whether or not they’d like to have their children protected by a SRO, chances are they would have said, “Yes, of course, that makes sense.”
So, we should put politics aside and do it. We should put SROs in every school or, at the very least, make sure the school districts that want to have armed security on staff have the resources and funding they need to protect their students.
2. Enforce federal gun laws
I wrote about this the other day, but for whatever reason the Obama administration, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are not prosecuting gun crimes to a satisfactory level.
Here’s an excerpt from my article:
As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) noted while questioning acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives B. Todd Jones at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, of the 48,321 cases of illegal firearm purchases in 2010, only 44 were prosecuted by federal prosecutors.
An FBI report from 2009 showed a similar reluctance to go after individuals who lied on their federal background check application or National Instant Background Check System or NICS form. Of the 71,000 instances where people were caught lying, the Department of Justice prosecuted only 77 cases.
When one examines the regional impact of these numbers, a trend emerges. That is, cities that are reluctant to enforce federal gun laws have problems with gun crime. Chicago, which was dubbed the murder capital of America in 2012 with over 500 homicides, ranked 89th out of 90 U.S. Attorney districts, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which evaluates the performance of federal law enforcement agencies.
To put that number in better perspective, in 2011, federal prosecutors in Chicago only tried 63 gun-related cases, an embarrassingly low number considering the Windy City’s violence epidemic.
Bottom line, if the federal government were to aggressively enforce the gun laws that are already on the books, there’s good reason to believe that more criminals would be put behind bars.
3. Improve mental health reporting to NICS
Folks from both sides of the gun divide argue that FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System is broken. The reason?
Well, not every state participates in NICS and the states that do are often derelict in submitting the records of those who’ve been adjudicated “mentally defective” or those who’ve been convicted of a felony into the system.
So, in short, we have to “Fix NICS,” as the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry has argued.
For more on this solution, check out the video below or FixNICS.org:
4. Teach gun safety in schools
Why not? We teach kids about safe sex, why not teach them gun safety? I mean it is the second thing mentioned in our country’s constitution!
For young children, we could start with rudimentary programs like the NRA-sponsored Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which teaches youngsters what to do when they encounter a firearm: “If you see a gun, STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an adult.”
As children grow into adolescents and young adults, more advanced safety training could be introduced. Maybe even some range time and shooting lessons.
This was something that used to be taught readily to children in this country (heck, schools had rifle teams) and, in my opinion, everyone should know how to safely handle and operate a firearm because one day their life might depend on it. It’s that simple. The reality is that widespread ignorance or fear of firearms doesn’t make society any safer. On the contrary, it puts more people at risk.
5. Increase suicide prevention and outreach
Two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides (19,000 of the roughly 30,000 gun deaths per year). This underreported figure is often neglected in the gun control debate because many people take a fatalistic attitude toward individuals who kill themselves, that is they hold up their hands and say, “If one wants to kill oneself, he/she will find a way to do it.”
In some cases that’s certainly true. But it in other cases there are good reasons to believe that intervention, be it counseling (formal or informal) or medication, would have made a difference.
Therefore, collectively, we need to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to those around us who may be suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or any other mental health ailment. We need to encourage our friends and family to seek out the help they need.
If you see someone that is troubled or that you think may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them about it. Ask them if they need help and tell them you are available to talk if need be. Sometimes it’s the little things — going out for coffee or watching sports or just listening — that can have the biggest impact.
6. Become a trained, certified concealed carry permit holder
Evil exists in the world. While it’s unlikely that one will ever have to use a firearm in self-defense, the possibility still exits. As the old saying goes, it’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
Moreover, we know that there exists a correlation between the rise in concealed carry permits and the decline in crime over the past two decades.
As I’ve said in the past, correlation does not equal causation, but it’s difficult to deny the reality that as concealed carry rights have been expanded over the past two decades across the country, crime (property crime, violent crime, and the homicide rate) has continued to decline.
In short, more guns and an expanding ‘gun culture’ are not creating more crime and that includes gun-related violent crime. Instead it would appear that the opposite is true, as more law-abiding citizens opt to exercise their Second Amendment rights, crime goes down.
So, if you’re a responsible, law-abiding citizen and you believe that you have a natural right of self-defense, get a gun, get trained (I can’t emphasize that part enough) and get a concealed carry permit.