“Our Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough”: Congress Must Enact Commonsense Gun Control Legislation 

By Rob Moore

Earlier today, another school shooting happened, this time at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. Ten are dead, twenty are wounded. Circumstances of the rampage are still vague, but the suspect appears to be a 20-year-old man, dead at the scene, who had been found to be complaining online about his “insignificance” and said that “this is the only time I’ll ever be in the news.”

The National Rifle Association and other radical right-wing organizations argue that mass shootings are rare, despite the fact that mass shootings increased 156% from 2000 to 2013. They also say that these shootings are inevitable, despite the fact that the United States has only 5% of the world population but over 30% of the world’s mass shootings. America is neither immune to nor helpless in the face of mass shootings.

As a matter of fact, only six months ago, seven of the nation’s leading physician professional societies joined with the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association to put forth six evidence-based policy recommendations to reduce gun violence in the United States.

  1. Universal Background Checks. In 2010, 153,000 people were blocked from purchasing guns because they were identified as prohibited purchasers through gun background checks. Despite this, 6.6 million firearms are sold legally every year without background checks due to loopholes in federal law. This means that tens of thousands of former criminals and people with mental illness are legally purchasing guns in the United States every year. A study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research shows that the state of Missouri’s 2007 repeal of its background check law contributed to a 14% increase in its murder rates in the following years.
  2. Repeal of Physician Gag Laws. Currently, the states of Florida and Minnesota have enacted laws that ban physicians from addressing safe gun use with patients. Other states have proposed legislation as well. Physicians should not be barred by law from doing their jobs.
  3. Providing Adequate Mental Health Care. While most gun violence is not carried out by the mentally ill, access to mental health care for those who need it and restriction of gun ownership for identified dangerous individuals are key components of a strategy to prevent gun violence.
  4. Commonsense Reporting Laws. Laws focused on reporting of dangerous individuals should be treatment-focused and should not deter individuals from getting the mental health care they need.
  5. Banning Assault Weapons. There is no sport or safety reason that a military-grade assault weapon with a large-capacity magazine should be eligible for private ownership. Since Australia’s 1996 enactment of similar measures, the country of 23 million has not seen a mass shooting.
  6. Funding for Gun Safety Research.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and National Institute of Justice must be funded adequately to research the causes and effects of gun violence in America.

The United States does not need to continue to be a victim to national tragedy after national tragedy. We have the tools to make our country safer: the only question is if we have the will to go ahead and do it.

Rob Moore is a Master of Public Policy student at the Goldman School of Public Policy. He writes on state policy and the politics of public policy.