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11/11/2017 12:14:00 PM
COMMENTARY: Key to gun reform: set a clear goal

Kelly Hawes, Herald Bulletin CNHI News Indiana Columnist

Days after a lone gunman rained terror down on a crowd of music lovers in Las Vegas, six out of 10 respondents told Gallup they thought gun laws should be more strict.

Now, another man has rained down terror at a church in Texas.

Will this tragedy be enough to spur our leaders to action? The odds are the answer is no.

So what will it take?

In a column for the Huffington Post, a strategic adviser named Liana Downey offered a suggestion. It’s time, she said, for reform advocates to admit they’re part of the problem.

“CBS News reported that the response of Democratic legislators to the Orlando massacre was to ‘shout down Speaker Paul Ryan and demand a gun control bill,’” she wrote. “Was that helpful? It sounds like action, but what were they actually asking for?”

Downey noted that a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America had asked supporters on social media to contact their elected representatives and demand action, and again she asked the question: What action are reform advocates seeking?

“Terms like ‘gun control’ and ‘gun reform’ are notoriously vague, …” Downey wrote. “This ambiguity is deliberate. Knowing full well that the pro-gun lobby is quick to raise the cry ‘they’re coming to take our guns,’ most politicians and protesters — even those in support of reform — hide behind indirect terms in the hope that they won’t ruffle feathers.”

And, of course, the ruse doesn’t work. The gun lobby immediately seizes on the lack of clarity and paints a doomsday scenario for gun owners.

I drew just such a reaction last month when I suggested after the killings in Las Vegas that it was time for some “common sense” gun reforms. An unhappy gun owner sent an email arguing that no reform would be enough for a guy like me.

“The ink wouldn’t even be dry, and you would be calling for more ‘common sense’ gun laws,” he wrote. “Then you wonder why Second Amendment supporters will not compromise with you. To you, enough is never enough.”

To counter such reactions, Downey urges reform advocates to define an objective and set about trying to

achieve it. She suggests the advocates set a goal of saving lives.

“Analyzing the best available data over the last five years suggests that, on average, the U.S. has lost 31,500 lives to guns every year,” she wrote.

She suggests cutting that number nearly in half with a goal of saving 15,000 lives a year.

By putting forward a clear goal, she said, reform advocates can analyze the problem and identify solutions.

“What would happen if we truly identified common ground and set about systematically identifying the options to achieve it?” she wrote. “Even the NRA has said they’re in favor of reducing gun fatalities. So let’s start there.”

One way to reduce gun deaths might be to make guns less accessible, she said, and she acknowledges that doing so might run counter to the profit motive for gun manufacturers.

“We have two courses of action — diminish the influence of the manufacturers or invite them to the table,” she said. “The choice is theirs. … If they won’t agree on a goal to save lives, then their motives are clear — they value money, not Americans.”

Polls show that most Americans agree our gun laws need to change. Most of us are tired of seeing innocent people slaughtered like they were in Las Vegas and Texas.

We want to see meaningful reform.

Downey proposes a road map to get there. It’s worth a shot.

Related Stories:
• Legislators: Stronger Indiana gun laws unlikely despite recent mass shootings
• Certain Statehouse employees to receive firearms training

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