Opinion: Is the Senate gun compromise a step in the right direction?
While a written bill has yet to emerge, descriptions of the compromise would protect gun rights while providing tools to help prevent more shootings
By definition, a compromise means each side gets something it wants, and neither gets everything it wants. Many Americans have been bitterly partisan for so long they may have forgotten how this works.
Details are important, and no one knows these yet because a written bill has yet to be filed. Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, is reserving judgment until he sees this, which is prudent. But much is known from how both sides are presenting it, and the deal sounds worthwhile.
On the subject of how to curb the plague of mass shootings, conservatives have stressed the need for a greater emphasis on mental health services. The announced deal would provide major investments to increase access to such programs, including crisis and trauma intervention, suicide prevention and crisis care. It would increase funding for mental health and supportive services in schools — programs meant to detect potential problems early — and it would provide increased access to telehealth services.
The agreement reportedly would also require Washington to invest in safety measures in and around elementary, middle and high schools. It would provide greater crisis training for school workers and students, and support violence prevention efforts.
Liberals, on the other hand, stress the need for greater control on gun purchases and ownership. The agreement would require people under the age of 21 to undergo more thorough background checks, including checks of state databases and local law enforcement records. The agreement would crack down on criminals who illegally purchase and traffic firearms, and it would add dating partners — boyfriends and girlfriends — to the list of people prohibited from purchasing guns if they have restraining orders issued against them.
The main concession to gun control would be extra funding for states and native tribes to administer so-called red flag laws, which aim to keep people who courts have determined pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing guns. Such laws, however, would remain entirely optional for state and tribal governments.
That’s all. The compromise would not raise the age limit for gun purchases, and it would not ban assault-style weapons — two things many conservatives oppose.
While it’s unclear whether the compromise has enough support to pass the Senate, it’s clear from descriptions that this may be the best a bipartisan effort could accomplish, given the entrenched views on both sides of the aisle.
One conservative talk radio host, Ari Hoffman, has urged his listeners to overcome their fears of compromise.
“Rather than squealing that they’re coming for our guns, conservatives should support this measure,” he wrote for Newsweek.com. “After all, the average American gun owner should not want someone running around making gun ownership look dangerous. Red flag laws, if properly enforced, help everybody.”
That’s a refreshing take. Indeed, compromise is not a dirty word. However, no one should support a measure for the sake of compromise alone. It has to accomplish something.
On that score, this deal appears to provide meaningful reforms that could prevent some future mass shootings, thus saving lives.
That’s difficult to prove, of course. No legislative solution could end all mass shootings in a nation that is besieged by such crimes. Real solutions lie in the hearts and minds of people who, for whatever reason, see killing others as the best solution to their problems.
But if the written bill follows reports of what the compromise entails, it would give law enforcement, schools and health professionals the tools necessary to reach more potential perpetrators with important intervention methods. That would make it a step forward, indeed.