Sometimes we need to step away from an immediate problem to see a better solution. So it is with gun control, as award-winning journalist Carl Cannon wrote yesterday in his weekly “Morning Note” newsletter.
Is the solution putting more restrictions on law-abiding citizens, which President Biden announced yesterday he plans to do through executive order?
The terrible tragedies of mass shootings revive the debate over gun control, but both the U.S. Constitution and politics often lead to stalemate. Instead, we need new thinking to address the real triggers.
This is definitely a public health issue. Every year, nearly 39,000 people in the U.S. die from shootings—two-thirds from suicides and thousands from domestic violence. Another 82,000 die from alcohol and drug abuse.
Cannon, who is the Washington Bureau chief of RealClearPolitics, offers a broader perspective that gets to the underlying causes of gun violence:
“[W]hat about the flood of violent video games and the thousands of simulated murders produced in Hollywood each year?
“What about the rights of the mentally ill — was it prudent to close mental hospitals and put sick people either in prison or on the streets?” Cannon asks.
“…And whose brilliant idea was it to gut prison rehabilitation programs?
“In a functioning democracy, we would be discussing all of this, with the idea of keeping weapons of war out of the hands of madmen, yes, but also trying to mitigate underlying causes that lead not just to mass shootings, but also everyday street violence and broken lives: addiction, alienation, and mental distress.”
If Congress were to focus on these underlying causes, it would have a chance to break the logjam—with bipartisan support.
Stuart Butler, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, is a leader in addressing “social determinants of health.”
“There is a growing body of research indicating that there is a direct relationship between the social determinants of health, such as housing, transportation, and food insecurity, with the physical and mental health of individuals,” he writes.
Instead, we pour more and more money into Medicaid and other siloed social programs with little or no coordination or larger plan.
Rather than tired and fruitless political debates, Butler says we must break through silos and think in broader terms that target resources more efficiently to help people instead of perpetuating and enlarging programs—which often have constituencies resistant to change. A movement is beginning in states to do just that, but it is a heavy lift.
However difficult, this is not only the right thing to do politically, but it is truly the humanitarian solution.