President Barack Obama is angry after the shooting at an Oregon community college campus that left nine dead and several more injured. This latest shooting at a school campus has apparently been the straw that broke the camel’s back as he reportedly prepares to issue executive orders to expand background checks for gun buyers.
President Obama is openly politicizing the issue as he feels that the public may be near a tipping point and his own time in office is slipping by without any progress on this issue. Though I vehemently disagree with his solution and have no idea how it’s constitutionally allowable, he at least has one.
The Republicans? Not so much.
General manager Steve Alcairo holds a Winchester 1200 shotgun while being interviewed at High Bridge Arms Inc. in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (AP/Jeff Chiu)
So far, the Republican response has mainly been defending against the onslaught of progressives who want more gun control and a reduction of guns in the country. Defense. Again.
It is maddening to watch them bumble and stumble around with no real response to the seemingly growing number of mass shootings in schools except to try and absorb the blows from the gun control advocates and hope that the wave of emotions passes without any real damage.
Enough is enough. The Republicans need an actual plan to reduce these shootings and need to take the offensive rather than being backed into a corner and hit with body shots again and again.
Here is that plan:
Minimum Sentences For Illegal Ownership
First up is the low hanging fruit. Federal minimum sentences for gun crimes already exist when someone is convicted of a federal felony involving violence or drug trafficking. Wonderful. This broad-brush approach, however, lumps in people who have legally purchased a gun and those who have acquired it through other means (read: illegally).
This should be changed so that the minimum sentences are reduced if the gun is legally owned, but maintained or even increased if it was illegally acquired. This separates legal gun ownership from illegal ownership, a much needed differentiation in a time where the two often get lumped together.
Mental Health Concerns
Second, a modification to the HIPAA laws could be greatly beneficial to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from purchasing a gun. Currently, there are many states who provide almost no records for individuals who would be prohibited from buying a gun based on mental health reasons. Why? The Privacy Rule in HIPAA.
The Privacy Rule creates national standards to protect medical records and the personal health information of patients. The cases in which those records and information is allowed to be shared can be very vague when it comes to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) used to vet a potential gun buyer.
Within this rule, there is no explicit permission to share information with the NICS database. This should be corrected so that those who are already legally prohibited from buying a gun are actually stopped should they try to do so. Adding this explicit permission removes any legal questions and gray areas that would have previously prevented states from sharing the pertinent data.
Protection In Schools
Third, any publicly funded school should install metal detectors at all entrances. I do not believe in forcing every school to comply with this and so I believe it should be an “opt in” plan. Local school boards will have to make the decision in the end, but this gives the parents, students and employees of the district a very real voice in what that decision is.
I do, however, believe a funding mechanism should be in place. Currently we give out $2.8 billion in “Democracy, Human Rights and Governance” aid to countries around the world. This is just a small piece of the nearly $34 billion in foreign aid that is planned to be spent. Surely this would be enough to fund any district who chose to secure their schools with metal detectors.
The other piece to this is that each school will be required to have one frequently trained and tested employee that is armed at all times per 500 students. They will be trained and tested on a regular basis by local police, given a tax free stipend equal to 5 percent of the average teacher salary for the district, any medical bills incurred while performing their duty will be fully covered and they will have a life insurance policy equal to double their current salary if they are killed while performing their duty.
This, I believe, provides enough incentive for people to volunteer, but not enough that the wrong people step up for the wrong reasons. With about 50.1 million public school students in the country, this equates to just over 100,000 armed volunteers. If that 5 percent stipend averages out to $3,500 per year, it would cost our country just over $350 million. The medical bills and life insurance policies would be negligible due to the fact that shootings are still a rare occurrence at schools. With the above $2.8 billion in play, this would easily be funded.
Last but not least, gun free zones would be outlawed. The Second Amendment states that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Unlike the First Amendment, which explicitly applies restrictions to Congress, the Second Amendment simply states that this right shall not be infringed. Period. That means that neither Congress nor any private citizen or business can infringe upon that right.
Based on this, gun free zones would be unconstitutional as they infringe upon an individual’s right to bear arms. Whatever the rationale behind the preference, a business or institution is not allowed to violate someone’s constitutionally protected rights.
Gun free zones? Bye bye.
To anyone who would gasp at forcing a business to allow guns in their store in violation of their conscience or preferences, I give you four simple words: Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
These four ideas, particularly the last two, address the issue of mass shootings without conceding the false argument that guns are the issue and they need to be regulated even more. None of these ideas expand background checks or create any more restrictions on gun ownership. Rather, they seek to add some real common sense to a difficult issue, help protect those in vulnerable settings and respect the right of the Second Amendment.
All that is needed is to find a Republican courageous enough to stick to their guns, advance a set of proposals like this and not back down. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be painted into a defensive corner and to take back the narrative on guns from those who use it to control us.
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