Guy Farmer: Gun debate about more than guns

The spirited debate we’re currently having about back-to-back-to-back mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif.; El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio is about much more than guns. Of course the debate is about gun control, but it’s also about mental health, social media and hateful political rhetoric.

Four people, including the shooter, who bought his gun in Fallon, were killed at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival late last month, 22 people were killed and dozens were wounded last Saturday at an El Paso shopping mall by a hate-filled 21-year-old white supremacist who was captured, and nine people were shot to death in 30 seconds by an AK47-wielding assassin in a popular Dayton nightclub district last Saturday night before police killed the gunman.

There have been more than 30 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, taking the lives of more than 100 innocent people, including women and children, and wounding hundreds more. In other words, the U.S. is now more dangerous than Afghanistan and Iraq combined. What to do about this horrific wave of senseless gun violence?

Democrats, especially those running for president, immediately blamed President Trump for increased gun violence. “Donald Trump is responsible” for the mass shootings, said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. “The president is encouraging greater racism... (and) the violence that too often follows,” added former Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, of El Paso.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defended Trump on Sunday talk shows and said “social media and mental health need to be addressed” in the gun violence debate. Trump weighed-in on Monday morning by reading a prepared statement vowing to “act with urgent resolve” to combat gun violence. “These barbaric slaughters are a crime against all of humanity,” the statement said. “Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. Hate has no place in America.” “Mental health and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he added.

I’m glad Trump finally denounced racism and white supremacy, but it was painfully obvious that he was reading someone else’s words. He then proceeded to undercut his positive message by firing off “tweets” blaming gun violence on the “fake news media.” Please Mr. President, there’s enough blame to go around. Can’t we discuss this life-or-death issue without resorting to juvenile, petty language unworthy of the high office you hold?

While I strongly condemn the occasionally racist language the president spews in his tweets and his public campaign rallies, I also deplore the hateful language used by black race-baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and racist groups like Black Lives Matter that fan the flames of racial animus and resentment in America by demonizing white people and police officers — black, brown and white alike.

So what can be done about gun violence? At the risk of alienating my NRA friends, I think Congress should reconvene immediately to approve universal background checks and reinstate the assault weapons ban. Those weapons are designed to kill people, not animals. The Carson City IHOP shooter, a 32-year-old mental patient, killed four people and himself with assault weapons in 2011. Someone should have gone to jail for giving him those guns. Period.

Congress needs to consider mental health, social media, and horrifically violent movies and video games in addressing gun violence. Despite the First Amendment, Congress should find a way to shut down “dark” websites that promote racial hatred and advocate violence. Enough already!

And finally, we could stop shouting at each other. Let’s lower the volume and act like responsible adults, thereby proving that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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