Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

Romano: Can't a nation at war with itself make things just a little safer?

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Even before a nation's tears could be wiped dry, presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was telling an audience that the massacre in San Bernardino was evidence we were at war.

He was talking specifically of a war on terrorism and against radical Islam, but Cruz may have been understating the threat Americans are facing today.

For we truly are at war.

You need only glance at a list of more than 350 mass shootings in 2015 compiled by a subreddit website to recognize that.

We are at war with poverty.

With mental illness.

With domestic violence.

Mostly, we are at war with ourselves.

And every single one of those battles has claimed more lives than any terrorist-related activity on U.S. soil in recent years.

Now, at this point, it's worth mentioning the website's version of a mass shooting (based loosely on an old FBI standard involving four or more victims) can be misconstrued.

I'm guessing most Americans consider mass shootings to be planned attacks that target mostly random victims. Like Columbine. Like Newtown. Like Aurora and Charleston.

The 350-plus cases compiled at shootingtracker.com through the first 11 months of 2015 actually involve a wide variety of circumstances. Many appear to be spontaneous. And a great majority of cases indicate there was a relationship between shooters and victims.

Some are gang-related shootings. Some are drug deals gone bad. Many are family arguments that explode into murder-suicide tragedies.

The one thread tying them all together is guns.

This doesn't mean guns by themselves are the root of all evil. Downtrodden neighborhoods with their high crime rates are clearly a major factor. The high number of people with mental illness who are either undiagnosed or untreated play a role. And loopholes in regulations and laws lead to too many gun-toting idiots.

The point is, if we are going to be a nation that values our guns — and the evidence clearly indicates that's the case — then shouldn't we also be a more responsible nation?

Shouldn't we do more to help police? To monitor the mentally ill? To make sure guns don't end up in the wrong hands? To protect battered spouses?

Tightened background checks are not going to solve every gun-related murder, but they might keep an unstable young man from so easily killing innocent churchgoers. And assault weapon bans are not going to rid the world of mass shootings, but maybe they'd slow down the carnage on some distant campus or movie theater.

These are not radical ideas.

We already have background checks; we just allow too many loopholes. And we had a federal ban on assault weapons from 1994 to 2004, and the republic did not crumble.

You want to know who supports universal background checks? According to polls done by Gallup and Pew, around 85 percent of Americans.

You want to know who supported assault weapon bans? Republican hero Ronald Reagan, and lifelong NRA member George H.W. Bush.

Yet these common-sense and basic reforms cannot get through Congress today because lawmakers are either too stupid, too gutless or too indebted to the NRA.

This isn't a plot to rid law-abiding citizens of their handguns or shotguns or hunting rifles. Americans would justifiably storm the White House before that ever happened.

This is simply an acknowledgment that with great freedom comes great responsibility. And we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors and our children to make sure we are being as responsible as we reasonably can when it comes to protecting one another.

If, as Sen. Cruz says, we need to confront the war with terrorists, then shouldn't we also confront all the deadly threats we face every day?

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