The Second Amendment is not a suicide pact, as the Wall Street Journal puts it
Walmart announced it would stop selling certain ammunition following the mass shooting last month in a Walmart store in El Paso. Twenty-two people were killed in that shooting, executed with an AK-style firearm.
Walmart also requested that its customers not openly carry firearms in its stores, even in states where this is allowed, according to AP.
These are important steps, not enough, to be sure; but significant and welcome nonetheless.
Specifically, Walmart announced that it would stop selling handgun ammunition and short-barrel rifle ammunition (such as the calibers used in military style weapons), after its current inventory is exhausted.
Walmart stopped selling handguns in the mid-1990s except in Alaska. It also announced that it would now no longer sell handguns in Alaska.
Walmart’s CEO, Doug McMillon, told his employees: “In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again. The status quo is unacceptable.”
That hits it on the head. There is no simple solution to mass shootings, but there are many solutions, and Walmart is implementing one of them. That is because, indeed, the status quo is unacceptable. In other words, it is imperative to act even if a single action will not solve the problem in its entirety. For too long, the lack of a comprehensive solution has served as the excuse for doing nothing.
Actions like those of Walmart will add up to a comprehensive solution when other actors step up and other actions are taken. A primary example: a legal requirement for comprehensive background checks. Note well: After the mass shooting in El Paso, another mass shooting in Odessa, Texas took seven lives. The mass shooter in that case obtained his AK-style rifle legally through a private sale. Private sales are not covered by federal law. The mass shooter conveniently and legally evaded the federal law.
Note further: The mass shooter was denied a gun in 2014 because of his mental health, but he evaded the federal ban by going the private route, according to AP. So those who say that the solution to mass shootings is better mental health services implicitly concede the necessity of fixing the federal law, of extending background checks to private sales. For it was a private sale that allowed a mentally ill person to acquire a firearm and use it to kill seven people in Odessa, Texas!
Yes, better mental health services are one of the additional actions necessary to solve mass shootings. The solution is not either gun laws or mental health services. The solution is both/and.
On this score, a national “red flag” law, which passed in Colorado this year, is an important national step in stopping mass shootings. A red flag law gives courts the authority to remove guns temporarily from people adjudicated to be suffering from mental illness and to be dangerous. Polls show the majority of the American public, including gun owners, favor such a law. If President Trump supports it, it will get through Congress. It is not gun owners who oppose this, it is the NRA — and the two do not always overlap, thankfully. The president should do the right thing.
So should Congress, whose inaction on mass shootings has long been a national disgrace. Most Americans want Congress to pass pertinent laws rather than explain why it can’t.
There is much else that needs to be addressed to stop mass shootings, such as a screen-addicted, loneliness-filled society; and such as the online hate glorifications on the “dark web.”
Congress is back. At a minimum, it is time to fix the federal law, to mandate background checks at the time of a purchase or gift of a firearm by anyone to anyone in any American location and transaction. The status quo is unacceptable.
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