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America's mental illness is guns

Rattlesnakes are only poisonous if you think they are.

Women can stop their bodies from getting pregnant as a result of rape.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is prohibited from computerizing gun sale records into a searchable database that would allow them to easily trace guns used in crimes.

All of these statements are insane. And one of them is true: the ATF is forced to rely on primitive digital records on gun sales, forcing a cumbersome search, via paper or phone, whenever a gun used in a crime is investigated. Because gun owners want privacy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, charged with our public health and safety, is prohibited by law (and lack of funding) from using its budget to research gun violence. The strict language is that research can’t argue for gun control, even if data suggests homicides increase in houses that have guns. Denying that gun violence – responsible for 30,000 deaths a year – is a public health problem is like saying cancer can be cured by the application of leeches.

When it comes to guns, we are expected to disbelieve everything that our own eyes – and our broken hearts – tell us.

When the mass shootings like those recently in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, occur, the talk quickly turns to mental illness. That isn’t wrong, but the true insanity is the outrageous things the NRA and its followers keep expecting us to swallow.

The fact is, our mental illness is guns.

Poll after poll points to huge numbers of American in favor of gun control laws to minimize the chance of mass slaughters. The majority support expanded background checks that close the loopholes that allow anyone, whatever their criminal history, to purchase a gun at a gun show or from a private dealer.

There is widespread support for heavier regulation of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. But mass murder after mass murder, Congress has done nothing.

The two mass shootings last weekend have given some people hope that this might be the “tipping point.” President Trump is indicating support for expanded background checks though with few concrete details. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making similar noises.

We’d have more optimism if there was also noise being made to bring Congress back from its current recess, to start taking action now.

Also on the table is a “red flag” bill (also called an “extreme risk protection order bill”) through which family members or members of law enforcement can temporarily take guns away from someone in crisis. This, too, could help.

But a ban or heavier regulation of assault-style and military weapons that wreak so much human devastation? Not a whisper. And limiting the high-capacity magazines that are allowed to mow down lots of people? Not a peep.

It might be crazy to believe that things will change, given our violent history and Congress’ history of inaction. But so is surrendering to the idea that the interpretation of a 228-year-old amendment is more important than human life.

– The Philadelphia Inquirer