We need to start now

Cortland Standard
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Other nations have mentally ill people. They don’t see this many mass shootings.

Other nations have racists and extremists. They don’t see this many mass shootings.

Other nations have video games and violent language and movies and TV shows. They don’t see this many mass shootings.

So why does America see so many mass shootings — 253 so far this year? What do we have that they don’t?

Guns. It’s an addiction.

According to Gunpolicy.org of Australia, the United States has between 265 million and 393 million firearms — both legal and not — in the hands of civilians, about 45 percent of all the civilian-owned guns in the world. America has only about 307 million people over the age of 5; we’re not counting the under-5 set because we’re not sure they’re mature enough to capably and deliberately pick up, aim, shoot and kill their neighbors.

That’s 1.28 guns per person. How many of them are yours?

We have already advocated reasonable gun regulation, something that protects the rights of the legitimate hunter or sport shooter while protecting everyone else, too. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to own a weapon; it’s simply a matter of consensus on deciding who should not and making sure they don’t get their hands on them. Some weapons just shouldn’t be in the hands of civilians; it’s simply a matter of agreeing on which ones.

Certainly, New York and America should reinstate a ban on the 100-round drums that attach to those assault-style weapons that allow so much carnage. Congress should re-consider some form of the assault weapons ban it allowed to lapse in 2004.

But even if one has a right to own a gun, that doesn’t mean one should own one.

Studies at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health clearly show that more guns means more gun deaths. The more guns that exist, the more likely they’ll be used. Similarly, states with stiffer gun-control laws have lower rates of gun deaths, Harvard researchers have found.

New York is among those states. It enacted a “red flag” law in February to prevent people who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from buying or owning a gun. It enacted a law July 29 banning bump stocks and extended a waiting period to 30 days from three for people whose criminal background checks don’t immediately approve the purchase. A day later, it banned guns and gun parts that metal detectors cannot detect, including weapons created by 3-D printers. It also stiffened laws to require people to safely store their weapons if people under 16 are in the house.

It’s a modest start.

A new law in New York also authorizes state police to set standards for gun buy-back programs so they’re run consistently and effectively.

This must go further. Expand gun buy-back programs and encourage people to give up their weapons voluntarily. Pay a premium for the most-dangerous weapons, the AK-style and AR-style weapons that fire so quickly that deaths are measured in dozens.

Still, 393 million guns. It’s going to take a while to reduce that number simply by buying them back, or seizing them from people who have lost the right to own them. And that doesn’t reduce the number of new weapons people can buy.

So perhaps we should treat guns like the other addictive substances in America: alcohol and nicotine. Institute a sin tax.

The more progressively dangerous the weapon is to one’s neighbors and community, the higher the tax. Use the revenue to fund anti-violence programs.

That’s also not a panacea. Ending our addiction to guns and the ability to kill people at will may take decades, even generations.

We need to start now.

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