Reviews | After Uvalde, I pray for bold action on guns
But the closer we come to an inexplicable tragedy, the more the prayer takes on a sad salience. After this week’s massacre in Uvalde, Texas, the Getty Street Christ Church welcomed people to pray. A local pastor, Marcela Cabralez, first made sure her two grandchildren were safe before offering comfort at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, where surviving parents and children had gathered. Some children were screaming; others seemed catatonic. “Cabralez said she started praying,” the Post reported, “with some of the kids rehearsing after her.”
It is an honor to join in such prayers.
Opinion: Why nothing will change after Uvalde
Yet he is deeply frustrating this case after the mass murder case passes without a meaningful public response. The reaction of a functioning political system to the Buffalo and Uvalde murders would be to exhaust the most promising political approaches.
What principle of constitutional autonomy requires that the legal age to purchase an AR-15 be 18 instead of 21? A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the right of 18-year-olds to purchase what most of us would call “assault weapons.” His reasoning? “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army.”
In fact, the enlistment age for the Continental Army was 16 years old – only 15 years old with parental consent. Some were used to 14 years old. Is this a sufficient legal and historical basis to allow young teenagers to buy quasi-military weapons in 2022? This type of “originalism” is indistinguishable from idiocy. Why should one of the rites of passage for every 18 year old include access to tremendous firepower?
While we’re at it, why not strengthen and tighten federal background check laws? We know that these measures have maintained million weapons in potentially dangerous hands. But other massacres have exposed loopholes in the law that Congress has every reason to close.
And why not pass national “red flag” legislation, which would allow law enforcement to confiscate weapons from people who a court deems dangerous to themselves or others? Nineteen States and the District of Columbia already have such laws, with varying degrees of success among them. But they are used. Florida invoked its law more than 5,800 times since its passage in 2018.
We don’t have enough information to know if this type of law would have prevented the Uvalde murders. But it seems possible that a bullied, socially isolated dropout with increasingly erratic and violent behavior and a disturbing social media presence could have been perceived as a threat.
I honestly don’t know how effective any of these three ideas – lowering the age for gun sales, strengthening background checks, and passing a national red flag law – would be in the prevention of mass shootings. But I know that none of them are remotely unconstitutional. And I know that a healthy legislative process would pass these laws, closely monitor their effectiveness, consider improvements to strengthen them, and then consider other promising ideas that emerge and pass other laws.
Opinion: I just want to know: how can I protect my 6-year-old daughter?
Surely this process would be more useful and humane than imposing impossible burdens on parents (considered fashionable follies like bulletproof backpacks) and children (subjected to terrifying active shooter drills in which flashing sneakers are supposed to attract deadly attention). We are faced with a public policy problem. It requires originality, audacity and perseverance on the part of legislators. And they are currently being watched and judged.
The most difficult aspect of this difficult problem is a dark myth that lies at its heart. There’s a plausible (but not, to me, convincing) argument that serious, semi-automatic firepower is useful for hunting – leaving your elk, I guess, pre-tempered. Others argue that protecting the hearth and home from criminal invaders requires rapid-fire ammunition that seems more suited to the Donbass battlefield. Others argue that any gun regulation amounts to an elitist attack on their unique culture.
Still others argue that high-powered weapons must be in the hands of American citizens – weapons that can easily depopulate a classroom, church, synagogue, movie theater or grocery store – to be used against the American government when the moment for the revolution arrives. In this argument, the protection of children and minorities from harm takes precedence over the betrayal madness of ersatz patriots. It could be a prodigious source of American bloodshed. And it’s really scary.