Commentary: The Senate agreement on gun safety may seem like small potatoes – but it’s not | Opinion columns

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Politicization pays off. And I hope we’re headed down the slippery slope that the gun lobbies have long feared.

The response is automatic from gun groups and their chosen toads every time there is another horrific mass shooting and frustrated gun safety advocates go beyond “thoughts and prayers” asking why we allow civilians to acquire weapons of war. Why is America the undisputed leader in gun violence in the industrialized world?

Sensible people who raise these sensible questions are immediately exposed for “politicizing” the tragedy.

You bet, and good for outraged gun control advocates. Politicizing an issue is how we are organized to make a difference in America, not by pulling guns from the racks and shooting. Or invade the United States Capitol.

Through centuries-old Democratic politicization, public pressure has been on enough Republican U.S. senators to agree last week on a framework for very modest gun legislation.

Of course, it helped that the 10 Republican signatories didn’t run for office this year. In fact, four are retiring. That way they won’t face gun-loving voters in November and could listen to the rest of us.

Gun lobbies – led by the National Rifle Association – have blocked even the most tame gun controls in recent years, warning they will lead us down the “slippery slope” towards more aggressive action.

Let’s hope they’re right, and this compromise puts timid Republicans at ease about passing laws that protect school kids from tormented killers armed with assault weapons — and women abused by sick armed partners.

We can only hope that the slippery slope will lead to the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and the banning of high capacity magazines. At a minimum, Congress should require universal and substantial background checks for all gun sales – whether the gun is sold by an authorized dealer or a private peddler. Like we do in California.

But Congress isn’t going to do that anytime soon. So, let’s be grateful for the security measures we can get.

“It’s not all we hoped for. It won’t solve the gun violence crisis,” says Ari Freilich, director of state policy at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

But he adds: “The house is on fire, and this is a bucket of water. We need a lot more buckets of water, but every bucket of water counts. »

“I’m overexcited. I didn’t expect anything,” says Asst. Professor Veronica Pear at UC Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program. but maybe next time it won’t be so difficult” to compromise on gun control legislation.

In fact, the Senate framework, assuming it is truly enshrined in law and adopted, has some important elements.

The bipartisan agreement, worked out by the senses. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, would require enhanced background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21. They should be mandatory for gun buyers of all ages, but it’s a start.

Background checkers could dig into juvenile records that are now sealed.

The suspect in the recent racist shooting of 10 black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, and the mass killer of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, were both 18 years old.

The compromise would also close the so-called “boyfriend” loophole. Now a man who beats a spouse or partner can be convicted of domestic violence and banned from owning a firearm. But if he’s not living with the abused woman, he’s legally entitled to a gun. Under the Senate agreement, he would be stripped of his guns and could not legally purchase another.

There are said to be billions of dollars – the precise amount has not been determined – for mental health services and so-called “red flag” programs.

The red flag money is especially important because these programs help keep guns away from would-be killers or suicidal people in states where they exist, such as California.

In California, they allow families, teachers and co-workers to report suspicious gun owners. Then a judge can order the temporary confiscation of their weapons.

Nineteen states have some version of a red flag law, and they would all receive federal money to bolster their efforts under the Senate program. Importantly, there would be financial incentives for other states to create their own programs.

A recent study by UC Davis violence prevention researchers found that 58 people who threatened mass shootings were disarmed during the first three years of California’s six-year red flag program. . At least 12 school shootings have been averted.

“There’s no doubt that red flag laws prevent gun violence, likely including mass shootings,” says Garen Wintemute, who directs the research program at UC Davis.

As for the Senate framework, Wintemute said, “This is a level of progress we haven’t seen in a very long time. It’s all for the good. At the same time, everyone recognizes that it is far from enough and people are hoping that this could be a first step.

One step down the slippery slope.

Meanwhile, the California Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom are setting aside money and pushing bills to tighten the state’s gun laws.

The $300 billion budget passed by the Legislature on Monday includes $40 million to help enforce the Red Flag law, particularly in cases of domestic violence.

A bill on the way would ban “ghost weapons” that don’t have a serial number and are untraceable. They are assembled from kits and do not require background checks. Under the bill, they would be treated like any other firearm.

Another bill would allow victims of gun violence to sue manufacturers and dealers who circumvent California’s gun standards.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan bid may seem like small potatoes — but it really is a big deal.

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