No Retreat, No Surrender

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE – So now your president (not mine) is willing to do something about gun control?

He’ll knock on Mitch McConnell’s turtle shell, see if he pokes that obtuse face out, and will let us know.

Then, maybe if they get a permission slip from the NRA, they’ll consider some background check language to file under “Red Flag” legislation.

While it’s a start, and you can never run down a start, I think we all know it’s not going to be sufficient.

And I think we all know that the next mass shooting after these laws go into effect will meet with a lot of “I told you so” remarks and smirks from the right.

The reality is that so much more would need to happen before the passage of time – five years, 10 years, etc. – shows a marked decrease in gun violence (mass shootings, street shootings, accidental shootings and suicides).

There are many facets to gun violence. It’s not a single-cause crisis, and there is no one magic-wand approach to making it vanish.

It’s a syndrome, with multiple causes.

And solutions.

We would be spraying Raid everywhere, except the hornet’s nest, without addressing the type of assault weapons used in Parkland, Vegas, Orlando, El Paso, Sandy Hook and so many other tragedies.

There was once a ban on these tools of destruction, and gun massacres (six or more deaths) dropped 43 percent. After it lapsed in 2004, under the George W. Bush administration, there has been a staggering 183 percent increase.

They like to say that the key to prevention is to turn every outpost in the country – from elementary schools to beauty schools, from supermarkets to dollar stores, from Little League fields to houses of worship – into armed fortresses.

Not that simple.

“I didn’t do anything because I thought police would think I was the shooter,” said an armed witness to the El Paso massacre.

Still, despite rather hollow willingness and passing-the-buck drills, we need to start someplace.

Those who are quick wrap body armor around the sugar daddy that is the gun lobby don’t want to go there, but any willingness to go somewhere that leads us out of nowhere is promising.

At least we are seemingly working past the “too soon to talk about (gun control)” and hollow “thoughts and prayers” mumbo jumbo.

Most of the country, as has been the case for a while, remains in favor of background checks. Democrats more than Republicans, but not by as much of a margin as you would think.

And there was this, in the wake of the recent shootings, from your president (not mine).

“Mental illness and hatred pulled the trigger. Not the gun.”

Actually, hatred did pull the trigger of the El Paso shooter, who was bent on shooting Mexicans after leaving behind a manifesto that was dipped in the DNA of the rhetoric of your president (not mine).

Your president (not mine) was not a welcomed guest in El Paso, and it showed when all eight hospitalized victims refused to meet with him.

He won’t own that, but he seems willing to move – after which he will likely shove it in the face of his 2020 presidential opponent.

It might be worth the tradeoff.

What are being called “Red Flag” laws could just be a trap serving as sort of a political flypaper. It should, by no means, lead to waving the white flag on legislation – the type that would have to come after a powerful left hook in 2020 – really needed for substantive change.

Taking ancillary causes (mental health, video games, Hollywood, etc.) and making them the core issue could be as dangerous, long-term, as doing nothing.

There are people called epidemiologists who are experts in studying, well, the science of epidemics in all forms based on statistics.

And that’s where we have been for far too long with gun violence.

How do you explain, for example, that women also have mental illness but 98 percent of those pulling the trigger in gun violence are men?

There are varied definitions of who is or isn’t mentally ill, although it is generally accepted that as much as five percent of the population have a condition that would require a psychiatrist (as opposed to a psychologist, counselor or member of the clergy).

Research shows that only 43 percent get help, and it is also noteworthy than an estimated 60 percent of American counties do not even have a psychiatrist.

The epidemiologists point out that people with mental conditions are, in fact, 3.6 percent more likely to exhibit some sort of violent behavior but are 23 times more likely to be victims of violence.

The FBI did a study in 2018, and it pointed more toward factors beyond being insane.

This is more about those who go temporarily insane, as the study pointed to financial stress and disputes/bullying at school and/or the workplace with co-workers. Substance abuse was also cited.

What happens when someone is infuriated?

They might go home and punch a wall. They might get their drink on at the local tavern. They might go the gym and pump a battleship’s worth of iron.

But, in the land of the gun, there are other realities.

Even though our mental health issues are not different than that seen in other countries, the difference is access to guns.

We have 400 million civilian-owned firearms, which breaks down to 120.5 per 100 residents (i.e. more than one per person).

That puts us first, with lovely Yemen (just under 53 percent per 100) a distant second.

This is what we call a real red flag.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 18, 2019.

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