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Cooling the mass shooting fever

TRAVERSE CITY — We could easily start to cool the mass shooting fever that has gripped America. It isn’t rocket science. We could, for instance:

1) Ban assault weapons and define the term broadly. The assault weapon ban that Congress let lapse in 2004 is a good start but doesn’t go nearly far enough.

2) Require assault weapons to be turned in.

3) Ban high-capacity ammunition clips that allow shooters to hurt and kill so many people in so short a time.

4) Require thorough and lengthy background checks and spend the money to hire the people necessary to do the job right.

5) Strictly limit the number of guns people can buy, as well as the amount and types of ammunition.

6) Ban body armor.

7) Close the gun show loophole.

8) Allow class action suits lawsuits against gun manufacturers and hold them accountable for the damage they’ve done to society in the name of profit.

If we did all of these things by tomorrow, the problem still won’t go away any time soon. Everyone wants a miracle fix but one doesn’t exist in a nation with only 4.4 percent of the world’s people but 42 percent of its guns. (What are we so afraid of that the rest of the world clearly isn’t? We’ve become the land of the free and the home of the paranoid.)

Two things would speed up the process, though.

First, we need to stop pretending that we don’t know what’s causing the problem. We do know: It’s guns. Not the mental health system. Not racism. Not video games, for crying out loud. It’s the guns themselves. As the Times analysis put it: “An ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion. The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

We are addicted to them. And like any addiction, we need to wean ourselves off of them, if not cold turkey then over time, incrementally.

Second, we need to stop pretending we don’t know who’s to blame. We do know: It’s the Republicans. A May 2019 Quinnipiac poll showed 91 percent support for stricter gun control among Democrats and 59 percent among independents but only 32 percent among Republicans.

That’s about as clear as you can get, and tells you why, for decades, the Republican Party has obeyed its base and stood in the way of sane gun laws.

We need to get over the fantasy that reasonable people exist in Republican ranks. They don’t, not enough of them anyway. If the execution of grade schoolers at Sandy Hook Elementary didn’t move these people to action, nothing will. In their mind, there is no such thing as a reasonable compromise on guns. They believe (or purport to believe, anyway) in the slippery slope argument that one gun control law means all guns will eventually be banned. Show them polls that say no such desire exists among Americans, not even among Democrats, and they simply won’t believe them.

Why, I can’t say. What I do know is that the only way to truly turn the tide on the scourge of guns is to vote these people out of office and keep them out.

They may think it’s their right to have any gun they want. But those of us who don’t want to be shot have rights, too.

It’s high time we exercised one of them.

I’ll see you at the polls.

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to himvia email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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