Tag Archive | "Gun Control Laws"

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Yes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott Is Breaking Ranks With the NRA and Trump. No, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Just Yet


By Anne Branigin

The student-led push to finally bring a semblance of gun control appears to be working in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and other state lawmakers on Friday offered a series of proposals that would mark “the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades.”

The proposed gun laws defy the National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump, who have suggested arming educators as a way to fight the epidemic of school shootings, the New York Times reports.

According to NBC News, Scott explicitly said that he disagrees with arming school teachers.

“My focus is on bringing in law enforcement,” Scott said. “I think you need to have individuals who are trained, well trained.”

Scott’s plan includes the following:

  • Raising the minimum age to buy any firearm from 18 to 21 (currently, 18-year-olds can purchase semi-automatic rifles but not handguns);
  • Outlawing bump stocks, a kind of modification that allows gun users to fire their weapons faster;
  • Requiring more safety and mental health training for school personnel;
  • Establishing improved processes for authorities to share information about potential at-risk students and security threats;
  • Increasing law enforcement presence in schools;
  • Making it more difficult for individuals with mental health issues to access weapons.

The Times reports that other Florida lawmakers have proposed creating a “marshal” program that would let teachers who have enough hours of training with law enforcement to carry a weapon on campus.

The proposals do stop short of the sort of gun reform that student-activists have been pleading for, which includes a ban on the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

“Banning specific weapons is not going to fix this,” said Scott, a man who proposed banning a specific modification because he believed that would “fix” things.

Some of the proposals put forward by the governor are concerning for other reasons.

As many mental health advocates have noted, most gun violence is not attributable to mental illness. “Mental health professionals welcome more resources and attention,” as noted in a recent PBS article, “but they say the administration is ignoring the real problem”—that of easy access to guns.

American Medical Association President David Barbe also emphasized this in his interview with PBS, saying that improved access to mental health care was important, but “to blame this all just on mental illness is not sufficient.”

The proposed laws also place a heavy emphasis on putting more law enforcement inside schools. Gov. Scott requested $500 million to implement mental health and school-safety programs and to ensure that each Florida public school had at least one armed officer for every 1,000 students.

But the recent example of the Florida deputy who failed to respond to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should reveal the limitations of this plan. In addition, the disproportionate policing and punishment of students of color by school police means that Florida schools could actually become more dangerous places for black students.

So what sorts of gun reform should be on the table?

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been barred from researching gun violence since the mid-1990s, there is some data suggesting that certain policies are more effective than others. According to Scientific American, these include:

  • requiring a permit to purchase a firearm that must be applied for, in person, at a local law enforcement agency
  • banning individuals convicted of any violent crime from gun purchase
  • making all domestic violence offenders surrender their guns
  • temporarily banning active alcohol abusers from owning firearms

As for an assault weapons ban, the New York Times writes that Florida Senate Democrats have promised to amend any GOP gun bill with the addition of an assault weapon ban, but since they’re outnumbered in both chambers of the state Legislature, those measures would be unlikely to pass.

Anne Branigin is a News Fellow with The Root.

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Social Paranoia Feeds U.S. Gun Culture


 By Rene Ciria-Cruz

The gun has an indelible presence in America’s popular consciousness. The myth-making entertainment industry has embellished and magnified the gun’s prominent role in the narrative of the nation’s founding and rapid expansion across the continent over Indian lands and trackless wilds.

But reverence for history isn’t what’s really driving the soaring rate of gun ownership among Americans.

Today something stronger than the hunting culture or nostalgia for an adventure-filled frontier past is keeping gun fetishism alive — social paranoia. A dread of unseen threats against one’s personal safety feeds the demand for automatic assault rifles and handguns, much to the delight of obliging firearm manufacturers.

Up to 47 percent of Americans reported owning firearms in 2011, according to the Gallup Poll. Consequently, the U.S. has the highest rate of gun-related homicides among the industrialized countries. Changing these statistics is a formidable challenge.

Widespread anxiety over perceived impending violence explains why there are 89 guns for every 100 American civilians, as reported in last year’s Small Arms Survey; that’s some 270 million guns nationwide, the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.

Many believe the high-caliber handgun or automatic rifle is their best defense against crime. Someone may want to invade your home, rape your wife and kill your children. A gun would enable you to “stand your ground,” many are convinced.

The gun is also a tool for projecting personal power. This function has even spawned an “open-carry” movement that would allow men and women — who no one should try to “mess with” — to walk around like gunslingers of the old West.

And while no one really believes the United States is in danger of a military invasion by any foreign power, a good many gun worshipers believe that they need to be prepared for a social cataclysm of sorts, like mass unrest or a catastrophe that ultimately leads to widespread looting and depredation.

At its core, then, is a lack of confidence that the state can provide sufficient protection to its citizens. Tied to this is a profound sense of individualism, of a deeply held belief that only the individual, not the community or its laws, is the real guarantor of one’s safety.

Thus, while liberals may share some of these same insecurities, the cult of gun ownership is, as most observers already know, conservative at heart.

Writing in the New York Times, number cruncher Nate Silver draws the link between politics and gun ownership: White Republicans are more likely to own guns than white Democrats; by 2010 gun ownership among Democrats dropped to 22 percent but remained at 50 percent among Republican adults.

In its extreme form, gun worship is xenophobic and racist. Self-proclaimed militias and many so-called doomsday “preppers” fear a creeping United Nations “takeover” of the U.S. They also warn of an impending race war in which one must be prepared to defend one’s home and family against marauding and rapacious black and brown hordes.

This likely explains why whites are more likely to own guns than blacks or Hispanics and why gun ownership is higher among middle class households than poorer ones, according to Silver’s findings. And while most gun-related homicides occur in urban areas, gun ownership is higher in rural and suburban areas.

While owning a gun is indeed as American as cherry pie, it need not remain part of this country’s traditions. Owning a broadsword is not as British as steak and kidney pie, despite the prominent role of bladed weapons in British history.

It is admittedly not going to be easy to erase the prevalent social delusions that fuel gun ownership in America, but stricter laws and regulations can and should start preventing its lethal consequences. The law of the jungle through the proliferation of guns has no place in civilized life.the-hartford-guardian-Opinion

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