An idea that has so far escaped our state’s politicians in the long and weary immigration debate has surfaced relatively early in the gun-violence debate: comprehensive reform.
Well, not completely comprehensive, but it is a laudable start.
As the Tribune’s Michelle Reese reported last week, state Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, joining with Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and the president of the National Association of Resource Officers, Kevin Quinn, announced a plan to add more school resources officers to Arizona schools while increasing the ranks of school guidance counselors and stronger emphasis on determining mental illness.
The proposal is estimated to cost more than $30 million, which could be drawn from sources other than the state general fund and would need voter approval, Reese reported.
Here’s the not entirely comprehensive part: While touching on several areas, it doesn’t cover everything. Nothing is there about further regulating guns or ammunition, which overwhelming majorities of Americans believe is part of the solution.
The Pew Center for the People and the Press last Monday released results of a national poll (evtnow.com/504) showing 85 percent of Americans support background checks for purchasers of guns at gun shows or from private sellers. This view is expressed by similar majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats. The Pew Center survey found 80 percent back legislation that would keep the mentally ill from buying guns, once again with the solid support among members of both major parties and independents.
Regarding a ban on assault-style weapons, Americans are more evenly divided, with only 55 percent in favor, according to the poll results. The Jan. 9-13 poll of 1,502 U.S. adults and has a plus-or-minus 2.9 percent margin of error.
As their proposal lacks any solutions about guns themselves, it looks like Crandall, Babeu and Quinn are letting Congress take on these matters, which leaves them not having to take on the gun lobby here in Arizona.
If we have learned anything from the immigration issue, it is that only through several solutions aimed at several contributing causes is anything going to work. Political posturing about picking which one to do first before any of the others — Democrats want relaxed restrictions while Republicans want border security, while neither side actually defines either — has kept the matter unresolved for several years. That lack of resolution has had profound effects on the economy and on the lives of millions of people, citizens and non-citizens.
At least, Crandall and company’s proposal involves some aspects of the gun-violence issue. But it is important to point out that at best they — as well as restrictions on getting guns themselves — can only minimize, not eliminate, the possibility of violent deaths of children and adults. Still, minimizing such tragedy even without eliminating it remains a worthy goal.
Yet it is something to keep in mind as solutions are considered. Just as banning certain kinds of weapons won’t cure the nation from the scourge of such violence — both Kennedy brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed by people using legally available guns, for example — neither will increasing the number of cops on campus.
Certainly a cop at the right place at the right time could be in a position to minimize death and injury. But armed only with a service revolver, even the most earnest, heroic officer is hardly a match for a madman having much more firepower.
Again, these are not arguments against more cops or several other ideas. The more prongs of the attack on gun violence, the better. But they have limits. I don’t know too many people calling for police officers on campus with assault-style weapons of their own slung over their shoulders, for example.
Since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Americans are tired of rhetoric and want real action, not watered-down feel-good action that lawmakers so often end up giving them.
The absolutist arguments are wearing thin. An absolute ban on certain weapons might not eliminate every high-powered assault, but should we give up on installing traffic lights because there will always be people who disregard them and endanger lives? The same could be said about anyone who favors eliminating background checks entirely as a Second Amendment argument.
Crandall, Babeu and Quinn are to be commended for unveiling a great start for discussion of this vital issue. It approaches the issue from several fronts, which is what the public is demanding. It will come down to how comprehensive is comprehensive, however, and as the gun debate continues we should remember it is this consideration that has kept the nation from doing anything about immigration.
Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Reach him at email@example.com.