Make Them Hear You! is a weekly feature on KGNU, produced by Chris Mohr, letting listeners know how they can have their voices heard on issues up before Congress. You can hear it Wednesday mornings at 8.20am during the Morning Magazine.
Last week I directed my thoughts to conservative Christians who want to defend their Second Amendment rights. This week I want to talk to every young person who might be listening. Because we adults in power have failed to protect you. But you bring something truly new to the discussion. You are fighting for your lives, and it’s about time we start listening and showing we care more about you than our own tired old talking points. I know what it’s like to march for my life. I did it in Vietnam, when 50,000 of us kids died and a half million more were injured for no good reason. And we had no political power. But my own Republican father, who voted for Nixon every chance he got, also offered to support me if I wanted to escape the draft by moving to Canada. Now it is your turn to change the country, and I believe you can do it.
Even with the Second Amendment, there is a lot we can do together to make us all safer. Here are some things that we can push for together that could actually shift in the new political environment you have created in the last couple weeks, and which could likely stand up to a Supreme Court challenge. Millions of us will work tirelessly to push these things for the sake of your lives.
Gun-violence restraining orders (GVROs) or red-flags make us all safer while protecting liberty. This can get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, felons, the dangerously mentally ill, perpetrators of domestic violence, people who talk about mass shootings can be put through an individual, constitutional state process, and the result of that process is a set of defined consequences that includes revoking the right to gun ownership. What if this process could empower family members and others close to a potential shooter, allowing them to “do something” after they “see something” and “say something?
Donald Trump has gone a step further, suggesting he would consider raising the legal age of gun purchases to 21. Since 15% of all mass shooters have been under 21, this could help to a degree. Don’t count on Trump to follow through on this, though. He often tosses out an idea popular with the left and then retreats from it.
The Center for Disease Control needs to be able to review the potential impact of banning AR-15 style rifles and high-capacity magazines on the incidence of mass shootings. The agency was effectively barred from studying gun violence as a public-health issue in 1996 by the Dickey amendment. If it is repealed, the CDC can study this issue and make sensible gun-policy recommendations to Congress. Jay Dickey himself said he wished he had never pushed his bill through. Private insurance companies have done their own actuarial research; insurance rates go up when you have a gun because risks go up, not down.
Trump spoke with Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, on Friday about a bill he introduced with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, that aims to strengthen how state and federal governments report offenses that could prohibit people from buying a gun. It would Enact Universal Background checks with immediate integration with police data/reporting systems, and end Concealed Carry Reciprocity laws.
Public attitudes are changing. A recent Quinnipiac Poll found 97 percent of gun owners were in favor of background checks, a huge swing of 19 points. 86 percent of gun owners support barring anyone convicted of stalking or domestic abuse from buying a gun and 85 percent favor prohibiting anyone on a federal terror watch-list or no-fly lists from buying a firearm. Sixty-seven percent think the NRA is no longer an organization about gun safety. A Politico poll found that 79 percent of voters support bump-stocks which were used in the Las Vegas massacre. 69 percent support prohibiting firearms in K-12 schools and on college campuses. Imagine a white teacher in an inner city school in a scuffle with a black student, who pulls out a gun rather than dealing with the unruly student without that gun in the mix. Seven out of 10 Republicans also support bans on assault weapons, anNPR/Ipsos poll found.
Can assault weapons be banned? Yes. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 banned all assault-style weapons, and was found constitutional, but was sunsetted in 2004. I believe it is our youth, fighting for their lives, who can change the gun dynamic. But it won’t be easy.
After the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Republican representative Jolly introduced a moderate gun control bill on the House. The measure would have prohibited people on no-fly and terrorism watch lists from purchasing guns, but also allowed people who were refused gun permits recourse to argue their case before a federal judge. The NRA pulled its support for Jolly and he lost the next election. But A Republican defection may already be brewing. Florida is considering three day waiting periods, and raising the age to 21. Florida Senator Marco Rubio now endorses what’s known as the “red flag law,” to get guns out of the hands of people posing a threat to themselves or others.
The NRA is at its weakest point in modern history, losing elections in its home state of Virginia and in Alabama when it endorsed Luther Strange. It’s also under investigation by the FBI for laundering Russian money. Young people aren’t a special interest group. They’re our kids, and they’re telling us they don’t want to be murdered in their own schools, movie theaters and malls. It could be a long battle, but if you’re a young person, you are our best hope.
If you have an opinion on any of the gun laws being considered, you can contact your Representative and Senators and share your concerns. And you don’t have to be of voting age to contact your congressperson.