Issues around gun violence

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” —Edmund Burke

This quote, written long before we Americans took to the sidelines during the advent of mass school shootings, shines an uncomfortable light upon us all.

In the interest of full disclosure, it is noteworthy that I have numerous friends and acquaintances who have differing views and opinions regarding this topic. I also have a few friends and acquaintances who buy and sell firearms and ammunition. And most importantly, I am a father and grandfather with a family who are very dear to me.

It is not my intent to demean or belittle anyone who may disagree and have a different opinion. My intent, however, is to encourage constructive dialogue within the community to find ways to address all of the concerns surrounding this subject and come to a consensus on solutions.

My intent is to address current issues confronting us, after the most recent massacre in a public school in Parkland, Florida.

All mass killings within our schools have at least one thing in common: The perpetrator’s weapon of choice is the assault rifle, the most common model configured as the AR-15. It fires a small caliber bullet that is capable of inflicting lethal harm, even if it is not placed on target, but still within close proximity. Its high velocity delivers a shockwave, which sets the stage for maximum damage.

Not to mention, the bullet itself is capable of inflicting serious damage. It enters the flesh making a small hole, yet by the time it exits the body, expands in size, creating a much larger exit hole about the size of an orange or greater.

This design is intentional for its original purpose; to inflict maximum lethal harm in the shortest time to any tactical opponent who confronts the infantryman on the ground. Light-weight, it replaces heavier versions of the older M-14 and M-16 rifles. It is a weapon of war.

The legal civilian version of the assault rifle is semi-automatic. This means the weapon can fire as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. That said, some sources allege this weapon can be converted to full automatic style, within a short time, by someone who knows what to do.

The use of Bump stocks, however, is the easy-man’s way to convert the semi-automatic into a continuous firing weapon, without having technical skills to make a mechanical conversion. This option was used in the massacre in Las Vegas, with deadly effect, even though its accuracy is compromised.

In addition to the weapon’s abilities, magazine clips containing at least 30 rounds reduces reload time, thus increasing the potential number of casualties within a short time frame.

Can we find consensus?

Moving on, the range of solutions vary, and reflect the complexity of the issues facing parents, children, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement and city administrators, not to mention the gun-owning citizenry and those who do not own any guns. Thrown in for good measure, add state and federal governmental oversight as well as legislators, and you have many voices to listen to and consider.

On one extreme, proponents advocate total gun control, banning all but a selective few uses of weaponry by any civilian. They point to the success in bringing down the high murder rates in Australia with such a ban, implemented in 1997.

Prior to enacting the National Firearms Act in Australia, a study by the Harvard Injury Control Center in 2011 found 13 massacres and more than 100 deaths occurred. Post legislation, the rate was zero. All gun homicides, including suicide, fell from 2.6 average per 100,000 people to .25 average. Incidentally, suicides fell dramatically as well, mainly due to lack of access to available guns. Source;

Efforts to refute the effectiveness of such drastic measures as actually having increased gun crimes were later debunked.

On the other extreme, proponents advocate no gun control is needed and they encourage increasing the number of guns in schools by allowing administrators and teachers to conceal and carry. Some proponents encourage stepping up police patrols on school grounds, while others want to see more individuals with conceal and carry permits to surveil the premises. To date, there is not enough data to prove the effectiveness of these strategies.

Neither extreme is likely acceptable for many of these voices. The Second Amendment reflects one of the hallmarks of rights afforded the citizenry of this great country. And on the other side, citizens express opposition to increasing the number and availability of firearms, all based on rational grounds.

There are, however, middle ground solutions which can be debated and consensus found:

◼ Limitations on size of ammunition clips, preventing the shooter from inflicting massive casualties by having to reload often.

◼ A ban on civilian ownership of assault style weapons is another.

◼ A ban on Bump stocks which converts a semi-automatic rifle to fully automatic is another option.

◼ Raising the legal age limit of gun ownership to age 21 is perhaps one of the more palatable, “low hanging fruit” options.

◼ Universally mandated background checks with uniform standards, including provisions to prevent access to guns by individuals who express serious mental health disorders.

Incidentally, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is currently proposing legislation that includes some of these components. This, coming from a staunchly conservative defender of gun rights. Also, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts recently said he favors raising the age limit to 25.

Other options include:

◼ Hardening infrastructure in classrooms and hallways.

◼ Increasing real-time audio/visual surveillance to enable key resources to monitor the facilities and accurately assess potential threats is another option.

Some of these options cost money, however, and this must be borne by the taxpayers who also have a say in this issue. That said, one must also consider the cost and/or savings in lives of our children and the folks who engage in their education.

Paul Penner farms in the Hillsboro area. He has been active regarding agriculture policy.