There’s been no shortage of hot takes about what kind of, and how many, gun control laws we need to pass since the attack on thousands of innocent Americans in Las Vegas less than two weeks ago. We’ve seen politicians like U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein promote relatively narrow gun control legislation, while her House colleague, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, has publicly hoped that any anti-gun legislation introduced will be a slippery slope towards more. In the pages of The New York Times, columnist Brett Stephens opined that it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment, while Newsweek provided space for George Washington University law professor Neil Buchanan, who wrote that the Second Amendment should be no impediment against sweeping gun control laws.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned, however, is what the punishment for violating these proposed laws should be. Brett Stephens, for example, thinks we should repeal the Second Amendment. But he never gets around to explaining what the consequences should be if someone is caught possessing a gun after the Second Amendment is repealed. Do we throw them in prison? Take their gun away and give them a slap on the wrist? If Stephens is seriously proposing scrapping the Second Amendment, he should at least enlighten us about what happens to those who don’t go along with his scheme.
… he never gets around to explaining what the consequences should be if someone is caught possessing a gun after the Second Amendment is repealed.I don’t think Stephens or other proponents of gun control really want to have that discussion, in large part because it contradicts another belief held by many on the left—that the criminal justice system is systemically flawed and unfairly targets young minority males. If you believe that, how do you logically support putting more laws on the books that will also unfairly target young men? We saw this play out recently in Baltimore after the City Council proposed a bill mandating a year in jail for anyone caught illegally carrying a gun. At the first meeting on the bill, the council chambers were full of protestors shouting down the proposal. These weren’t Second Amendment activists. They were community activists worried that the bill would result in more young black men behind bars, many for the non-violent crime of possessing a firearm. The city council backed down, ultimately passing a watered-down plan that mandated no jail sentence for a first arrest on an illegal gun possession charge. Good luck finding anyone in Baltimore who thinks this is going to be a game changer for those trying to bring down the city’s high homicide rate.
While Baltimore officials got the message that residents don’t want to see people go to jail for simply carrying a firearm, they refuse to even discuss the fact that law-abiding Baltimore residents have a right to carry a firearm for self-defense, but cannot. The state of Maryland doesn’t recognize self-defense as a valid reason to receive a concealed-carry permit, and the state doesn’t allow for open carrying of firearms. Now, city leaders in Baltimore have sanctioned slaps on the wrist for those illegally carrying guns, while doing nothing for those who want to legally carry for their protection. And all the while, Baltimore’s homicides edge ever closer to a new record high.
It’s worth noting as well that Maryland isn’t just hostile towards the right to carry. In 2013, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the so-called Firearms Safety Act into state law. It contained sweeping anti-gun proposals, including a ban on many common semi-automatic rifles, bans on magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, and a mandate that all sales of handguns or long guns designated as “assault weapons” must go through a background check. Even with those restrictive laws in place, homicides have hit historic highs in Baltimore. Heck, if it was just a matter of making stuff illegal to stop illegal activity, Baltimore wouldn’t have had nearly 700 drug overdose deaths last year to go along with the more than 300 homicides.
So what’s the answer, if it’s not gun control? The truth is, there’s more than just one answer, but none of them are easy fixes. When it comes to taking on violent crime on our city streets, we need to give law enforcement the tools it needs to identify and target the most violent offenders and the most violent gangs for prosecution or, if possible, rehabilitation. We need to ensure that the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens aren’t restricted in the name of fighting crime, especially when we see convicted criminals get off lightly for their crimes. To help bolster conviction rates, we need to repair the frayed bonds between police and many of the communities they serve, and to do that we need to talk to one another, not past each other. More importantly, we need to listen as well as speak. Those bonds of trust will lead to more witness cooperation, which means cases can go to trial instead of turning to a plea deal. That, in turn, helps put bad actors away for a longer time.
When it comes to active-shooter attacks like in Las Vegas, the answers are even more opaque. Even Feinstein admitted that she doesn’t know of any law that could’ve stopped that vicious killer. Better access to mental health and fewer stigmas around mental health treatment would be a great place to start. But I keep coming back to a question Tucker Carlson asked NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox recently:
“These things didn’t happen when we were kids. So, what’s changed?”
Even Feinstein admitted that she doesn’t know of any law that could’ve stopped that vicious killer.In truth, these things did happen when we were kids, or even before we were born. And criminologist James Alan Fox says these types of attacks are not happening more frequently than in the past.
But I understand what Tucker was getting at. It feels different now, and I think it’s because all of us feel a little more disconnected. If we’re spending hours of our day online, we’re soaking in a toxic stew comprised mainly of snark, outrage, insult and ignorance. These online interactions have replaced many of the face-to-face interactions humans have engaged in since the dawn of civilization, and today’s tech companies are all about ensuring we don’t go back.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that some of those working in tech have started to quietly change their own habits, according to The Guardian. The left-leaning newspaper recently noted some in Silicon Valley aren’t using their own creations, in large part because of the negative effects of these “addictive technologies.” I was fascinated to learn that expensive private schools in Silicon Valley are beginning to ban smartphones and tablets. The tech titans aren’t just weaning themselves off their devices, they don’t want their kids to be around them much either. (Compare that, by the way, to the firearms industry, where you’ve got a lot of family-owned companies now in their second or third generation, and a history and a habit of inculcating our kids with the basics of gun safety from the earliest appropriate age.) The answer to what’s changed is “us,” and in part it’s because of the changes in how we communicate with one another.
Even as we can now talk (or more likely, argue) with strangers from around the world, our sense of isolation is growing. According to a 2016 Harris Poll, nearly 75 percent of Americans admit to feeling lonely on a regular basis, with 33 percent saying they felt that way at least once a week. When we’re staring at a computer screen, whether it’s “Call of Duty,” Facebook or a video poker machine, we’re not having the same level of interaction that we would face to face. We lose something in the transmission—a little bit of our shared humanity.
And guess what we’re doing more these days? According to another 2016 poll, we’re spending an average of 10 hours a day staring at a screen. As hard as it may be, we need to look for ways to reconnect with each other, instead of adding to the disconnection and discontent growing all too common in our lives.
Cam Edwards is the host of “Cam & Co.,” which airs live 2-5 p.m. EST on NRATV and midnight EST on SiriusXM Patriot 125. He lives with his family on a small farm near Farmville, Va. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @camedwards.