Gun control. It’s a topic that rarely gets any traction at the federal level, even after the most devastating and horrific mass shootings. After the Sandy Hook shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 20 children: nothing. After Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest shooting in American history when it happened in on June 12, 2016 (49 killed, two of whom had ties to the Pioneer Valley): nothing. Last month, less than a year and a half later, the Las Vegas shooting surpassed Orlando with 58 killed. Liberal Massachusetts banned bump stocks, the devices that allowed the perpetrator in Las Vegas to upgrade his weapons to automatic status. In Washington, D.C., nothing happened.
What we are learning, particularly with these “lone wolf” attackers (a cowardly euphemism for a white domestic terrorist), is that many have violence in their past, particularly domestic violence. National Public Radio reports that in at least 54 percent of mass shootings, the shooter also shot an intimate partner or relative.
In the case of the Pulse Nightclub shooter, whose victims included former Valley drag king Kimberly “KJ” Morris and Springfield native Stanley Manolo Almodovar III, his wife said she was beaten by him and forbidden from leaving the house. The man who shot at a group of Republican congressmen and injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise had been charged with domestic assault.
The perpetrator of the Texas attack was convicted of domestic abuse in an Air Force court-martial in 2012. The result should have been that he was not allowed to possess firearms.
And with good reason.
However, the Air Force never reported the conviction to the FBI’s criminal database, used for firearm background checks, and he was allowed to buy enough weapons to kill 26 people.
The gross incompetence of such an action gives one hope that even Republicans — who often frame the debate around enforcing the laws we already have around guns — may be shocked into some kind of a constructive reaction.
A bipartisan group of eight senators, including Republican John Cornryn of Texas, brought forward a plan this week to create incentives for states to send more information on criminal activity to the database and hold federal agencies accountable for inputting the info into the background check system.
This is an important step and should be widely supported.
The consensus I hope we’re all coming to in light of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal and the further revelations about celebrities, politicians, and other public figures (Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Bill Cosby … the list goes on and on), is that sexual abuse and domestic violence are serious offenses.
A further hope: ferreting out domestic abusers and sexual assaulters is a way we identify the scum of the Earth — the scum that has forfeited the right to bear arms.
Will shoring up the gaps in the domestic violence reporting system stop mass shootings? Certainly not. But with more than half of mass shootings coming from creeps who have shot at their own loved ones first, it’s a great place to focus.
And just reporting will not be enough. Judicial and law enforcement officials need to enforce the laws in place forbidding the possession of firearms to those domestic abusers. And strong background checks applying in all cases — including gun shows — need to be mandated.
Common sense laws — whether on guns or domestic abuse – may not have much of a shot with Donald Trump in the White House and his Republican lackeys controlling Congress. But we should all be paying attention to what happens with this bill, and be ready to introduce it again when saner heads control our government.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.