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Policies to prevent gun violence must be shaped by reason, not emotion

Photo: Office of Gov. Bill Lee

By H. Sharayah Colter

April 23, 2023

Establishing gun control laws to disarm people the government deems a threat to themselves or others may sound like an easy enough decision when appearing in brief news headlines. After all, who would oppose the goal of protecting children or minimizing mass shootings? No virtuous person.

In the wake of tragedies such as the Covenant School shooting, it is natural and right to look for ways to prevent such disasters from occurring again. Emotions, though, can lead to bad solutions to bad problems. We should all be able to agree we need to find good solutions to bad problems, and therefore, we must be willing to set aside the power and volatility of emotion and seek effective measures to eliminate the threat of shootings at our children’s schools.

The order of protection proposed by Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee offers an insufficient answer to an emotionally charged situation. It is not a good solution to a bad problem.

The proposed measure bolsters the government’s adjudication of who suffers from “mental illness, “serious emotional disturbance,” or a “serious behavioral condition.” If a person threatens self or others or even “places another in reasonable fear of violent behavior…” the government can decide to intervene and limit that person’s access to firearms and set in motion a series of events in which the person accused of being mentally unhealthy or causing fear in another will have to undergo medical evaluations and appear in costly court mandated hearings. The accused person then bears the burden of proving his or her innocence rather than being presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is not difficult to imagine how this system could be co-opted and harnessed for nefarious purposes. After all, today’s media-driven culture of trial-by-public-opinion can damage a life and ruin a reputation long before a court case can be resolved.

After watching abuses of governmental authority throughout the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States and abroad, American citizens should be at least peripherally concerned and hesitant about broadening the power of civil magistrates and unelected professionals and ceding any personal and constitutionally-protected rights.

Americans should also be leery of giving more power to government considering that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) labeled parents attending school board meetings as “domestic terrorists,” and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) targeted Catholics in an internal memo, calling them “violent extremists” espousing “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology.”

Consider this excerpt from a May 20, 2022 article about the DOJ’s labeling parents terrorist threats:

“According to the statement, one example involves the FBI investigating whether a mom was a threat to her local school board because she belonged to a ‘right wing mom’s group' known as ‘Moms for Liberty’ and because she ‘is a gun owner.’ The allegation against the Moms for Liberty parent was reported to the FBI via a hotline set up last fall by Garland. 

“Another example was an investigation into a father who opposed mask mandates. Garland’s hotline was also used in that case, alleging that the father in question ‘fit the profile of an insurrectionist,’ and ‘rails against the government,’ and the complainant claimed he ‘has a lot of guns and threatens to use them.’"

Outside of government, significant opposition to and vilification of traditional Christian values is on the rise as well. On daytime television program “The View,” Jane Fonda recently intimated violence toward pro-life Americans. Patti LuPone, on the same program but a different day, said she cannot tell the difference between the “Christian Right” and the Taliban. Christian counseling methods that include “conversion therapy” have been outlawed in several states. Simply holding the biblical views that marriage is between one-man and one woman, that homosexuality is a sinful choice, that abortion is murder, and that people cannot change their genders is increasingly being referred to as hate speech and discrimination. As the definitions of terms such as “mental health” and “hate” widen, the funnel simultaneously narrows for what is acceptable Christian behavior according to the not-so-tolerant Left. At a time when these definitions are in flux, American citizens are right to pause and consider what so-called Red Flag laws and measures like what Gov. Lee proposes may mean for their lives five, ten, and fifteen years from enactment.

Still, the instinct to protect children from being shot to death at school is present and rightly so. We indeed must find ways to protect children from those who would harm them. That is what a civilized society of adults should do for its young.

It is critical to remember, though, that individuals who are willing to break existing laws in murdering people are not likely concerned with following additional laws regarding gun ownership. Additionally, law enforcement already has the ability to intervene with those conspiring to harm others. In the case of the transgender person who killed six people in Nashville, police reported that a significant amount of planning happened ahead of that tragedy. This new proposal from Gov. Lee does not appear to offer any more effective strategy that could have prevented the school shooting.

Instead of signing onto this good-in-name-only legislation and thereby playing into the hands of those who wish to disarm fully the American public, Tennesseans would do well to consider how reallocation of existing wasteful spending in government might pay for metal detectors, bullet-proof glass, and armed security at every school entrance. If you recall, at the national level, Congress appropriated $1.7 trillion just a few months ago for the federal budget which included $3.6 million for the Michelle Obama Trail, $410 million to secure borders in other countries, $45 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, $4 million for “Soy-Enabled Rural Road Reconstruction” in Iowa, and $1.5 million to encourage eating outdoors in Pasadena, Calif. People pay for what they want. If Americans want to pay to increase security in our nation’s schools in such a way that they become impervious to evil actors, they can. If protecting children is a priority, it will be evident in our budget process.

The development of additional strategies to de-incentivize crime and punish illegal activity in a way that could curtail violent offenses from a different angle would be wise as well. If gun control laws were the answer, states that have enacted them would boast of low homicide rates and peaceful communities. As is painfully obvious, this has not been the case.

We must seek to end the epidemic of violence plaguing our land, much of which needs to be addressed with systemic heart change and societal overhaul. But for the portion which stands to be relieved by courts, legislation, and the criminal justice system, we must not settle for bad solutions to a bad problem. Passing the governor’s proposal, though likely written and offered in good intentions, would be just that.

Let us instead work together to devise tangible and serious plans to defend innocent life, to promote due-process justice, and to preserve constitutional rights concurrently.


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