A week ago, the new was filled with not one mass murder but two. The discussion after this senseless killing has been, “What can the government do to prevent it?” These are the same demands that we heard from Governor Ralph Northam after the shootings in Virginia Beach. In these recent cases, the demand for action started even before police knew what had happened and were knee jerk reactions just as those of Governor Northam.
I agree that we need to consider changes in the law. I am not one, however, who believes that government can solve all problems nor can new laws affect situations when people are ignoring current laws. I support more enforcement of laws that we already have on the books that punish criminals who illegally possess guns. Further, I believe that laws should not be changed or passed without fully understanding their effects. We know that not a single proposal that the Governor offered would have had any effect in Virginia Beach. Likewise, those proposals, if passed on the federal or state level, would not have prevented the shootings in El Paso or Dayton.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
There was less media coverage of the actions in Chicago over the same weekend where 13 were murdered and 72 wounded. We should be just as concerned about this violence. A common thread is that most of these heinous crimes are committed by young men. If we look at the history of the offenders, we would find that most were raised in single parent households in which there is no father figure that could guide these young men.
How can we reverse the trend?
Another factor is church attendance. As regular church attendance has gone down, anti-social activities have increased. My father died when I was 13. Without a strong church family, I do not know where I would be today.
How can churches and church attendance once again be part of the solution?
Many talk about mental health being the cause, but those who suffer from these ailments do not just require professional care. They lack emotional and community support, which I think is sorely lacking. We can and must do better.
The Lt. Governor of Texas raised the issue of violent video and internet games. I would extend his concern to television and movies. How many young people can watch television without seeing shooting after shooting every night? Some would suggest that we saw gunfights in the sixties and seventies as well. The difference is that back then we were more likely to see Doc on “Gunsmoke” try to save someone and agonize when he couldn’t. Today, the shootings are fast then everyone walks away as the scene changes. My wife and I generally watch “Blue Bloods,” probably more for the family values, but it also always includes sitting down to dinner every Sunday. However, many weeks there are wild shooting sprees that often have the police shooting “the bad guys.” The same is true with many, if not most, action movies. What message does this send? Is it OK to shoot wildly if you perceive yourself as the “good guy”?
Returning to proposals that various political candidates, including our Governor, have offered. They sound good but need careful consideration. The first is banning automatic assault weapons. It is interesting that many do not realize that automatic weapons are already illegal. The next is efforts to ban “assault rifles,” saying they aren’t used for hunting. However, in the nineties such a law passed and had little effect. Many want “universal background checks,” believing that such efforts will keep weapons out of the hands of those up to no good. The reality is that Virginia had one of the first background checks. This has not prevented criminals from getting guns. They buy them on the street just as they do drugs. We have little impact stopping drug activity. Why should we believe that we can stop underground gun sales? Another nice sounding proposal is to have buyback laws. If a criminal goes to the expense of buying a gun illegally, why would he sell it to the government unless he knows he can get another one cheaper?
The reality is that each proposal sounds good but would only affect good citizens who want to follow the law. To what value is it to disarm citizens who own a gun simply to protect their family or to hunt? Just last week, we saw a legally armed citizen stop a bad guy with a gun trying to commit another mass murder.
We should all pray for those families who have lost loved ones and hope that solutions can be found.
Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.