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Other View: Let’s not fool ourselves: The guns are the problem

OPED-GUNVIOLENCE-EDITORIAL-GET
A police officer clears the makeshift memorial before the visit of US President Joe Biden at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 29, 2022.
Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images/TNS
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Transparent backpacks. Millions of dollars for school security and mental health services. An audit of law enforcement tactics.

After the Uvalde attack, our state leaders are seemingly trying everything they can to prevent the next school shooting. But so far, they refuse to deal with the root source of the tragedy: the easy availability of guns.

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Far too many children in Minnesota and across the nation are struggling to stay mentally afloat.

A newly released report by a Texas House committee tells a story of cowardice — and not only on the part of law enforcement. The report didn’t delve into Texas gun laws, but it revealed that the troubled teen who attacked Robb Elementary bought firearms with minimal effort. Decades of political inaction made that possible.

The gunman began amassing firearm accessories when he was still 17. As soon as he turned 18 in May, he legally bought two AR-15-style rifles, despite displaying violent tendencies for years. He had no criminal history, but he had expressed suicidal thoughts to family members and made violent threats against other social media users.

The bipartisan federal gun legislation passed in the wake of the Uvalde murders was a good first step, but it didn’t go far enough. We can do more to prevent gun violence while still respecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

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The legislation required more thorough background checks of gun purchasers under the age of 21. It also closed the “boyfriend loophole,” thereby keeping guns out of the hands of abusive dating partners who are not spouses or live-in boyfriends.

And it provided funding to help enforce red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to confiscate weapons from individuals deemed by a court to be a threat to themselves or others.

After decades of federal inertia on guns, this bill was a breakthrough. We welcomed it despite its shortcomings. As we wrote at the time, “The good should not be the enemy of the perfect.”

But it shouldn’t stop us from demanding more.

While the new federal gun law offers states incentives to implement red flag laws, it does not require them. Here in Texas, many state officials remain opposed to red flag laws, even though a 2019 University of Texas at Austin poll found that 68% of Texans support this kind of measure.

And our background check system is still inadequate. Gun sales between buyers and one-off private sellers aren’t subject to background checks — a loophole that allows criminals to circumvent checks at licensed gun dealers.

At the very least we could raise the age to purchase a rifle to 21. That is already a federal requirement for people buying handguns.

Of course, troubled teenagers must receive mental health support and intervention. Transparent backpacks and enhanced school security could protect students. And law enforcement should be prepared to stop an attack.

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At the margins, these measures may save some lives. But unless we abandon the death pact we have entered with an overly broad interpretation of the Second Amendment, mass killings will continue apace.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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