Sunday, October 2, 2022
Oct. 2, 2022

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In Our View: Republicans must bring ideas to gun debate

The Columbian

While we are pleased to have some clarity on where two prominent local Republicans stand regarding federal gun-control measures, we continue to wait for viable solutions from members of the GOP.

This nation has a serious gun violence problem. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American youth; our gun death rate is five times that of Canada and 10 times that of Australia; and no other developed nation has frequent mass shootings.

Following the murder of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Congress has tepidly worked to prevent such shootings. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines and would raise the age for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle to 21. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voted against the measure, and it is given little chance of passing the Senate.

In the Senate, meanwhile, tentative agreement has been reached to fund red-flag laws that could temporarily remove weapons from people having a mental health crisis, expand prohibitions on people convicted of domestic violence, and enhance background checks for gun buyers. Those measures are still under debate.

“The framework produced by the Senate is just that — a framework without specific legislative text. Whatever text is passed by the Senate will require careful review,” Herrera Beutler told The (Longview) Daily News. That is reasonable, rather than a knee-jerk reaction that too often passes for policy debates these days.

Joe Kent, a Republican who is running for Congress against Herrera Beutler, told The Daily News that he opposes measures such as red-flag laws, saying they are possibly unconstitutional. “This is 100 percent about keeping the government in check. The government is supposed to have a healthy fear of its citizens, and that’s why the Second Amendment exists,” Kent said.

Indeed, the U.S. Constitution is designed to protect individual rights. But courts routinely have ruled that the Second Amendment is not absolute and that some restrictions are permissible. Otherwise, there would be nothing to prevent our crazy neighbor from having a bazooka in the backyard.

Washington has a state red-flag law, established by ballot initiative with 69 percent of the vote in 2016. It allows law enforcement, family members and household members to seek the temporary seizure of firearms from people who are a “significant danger” to themselves or others. Firearms may be removed with judicial approval.

Other states also have red-flag laws that have withstood judicial scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Republicans repeatedly attempt to change the narrative. Herrera Beutler in the past has supported mental health and school security policies designed to reduce school shootings. She co-sponsored a 2021 bill that would have required schools to install silent alarms to alert police and would have provided training for school resource officers.

Kent supports policies expanding the presence of resource officers and making it easier for teachers to be armed — a bad idea that is opposed by educational groups and would have negative unintended consequences.

Until this nation comes to grips with the fact that we have an estimated 400 million citizen-owned firearms and that we fetishize gun culture, mass shootings will continue to be a way of life. We can do better; but that will require Republicans to join the chorus with robust ideas rather than hackneyed talking points.

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