Thoughts and Prayers

    Here we are again. Mere hours since another senseless tragedy involving the loss of life of our children. As a parent, watching these tragedies unfold in our nations schools has been quite difficult. Every day, my wife and I send our kids off to the bus stop for the school system (read our government) to teach them, and then, most importantly transfer custody of our children back to us at the end of the school day. Of all of the unwritten contracts that have been drawn over the years between the taxpayer and the government, this one in particular is of paramount importance.

    Our governmental officials are not fulfilling their contractual obligation. We have lawmakers at current who are either complicit and on the payroll of the gun lobby, willfully ignorant as they covet these same campaign contributions, or heartless. This is not what our government is supposed to represent. The government is supposed to be …of the people, by the people, and for the people., not the will of the largest campaign contributor, corporation, or Super PAC.

    As of the recent tragedy in Florida, there have been a total of 18 school related shootings in the United States in the first 45 days of the new year. In these 18 shootings, 30 have been killed and at least 39  have been injured (there have yet to be released numbers from Florida on the number of sustained injuries). This is unacceptable by any standard. Yet, when lawmakers are faced with the task of doing something…anything to change these statistics, we get the obligatory “thoughts and prayers” followed by “its time to let the families grieve” updated to “this is not the time….”.

    In honor of those killed by guns within the walls of what should be considered the safest of places in our society, I will no longer be offering mere thoughts and prayers. The time for thoughts and prayers has come and gone. I instead pledge my heartfelt condolences and action. Condolences for the grief and tragedy that these parents and families are experiencing. It is beyond my own personal comprehension what they are experiencing. I also hope I will never be in their shoes. Families and parents that have gone through this experience and those who may in the future have this experience form an elite club. The price of admission is much too great for anyone to wish to obtain membership. They have my utmost respect, compassion, and sympathy.

    It is for these reasons that I also pledge action. I pledge to take meaningful action that does not infringe on the constitutional rights of our citizens, but also ensures that those who wish to obtain firearms are lawfully obliged to do so. The approach I take is pragmatic, has a chance of actually being written into law, and protects individual liberty.

    First, legislators need to fix the manner in which state and local agencies report to national instant criminal background check system. Legislation has already been filed (S516) to streamline this process across state agencies and the interface with the national database.

    Second, should any individual be voluntarily or involuntarily hospitalized with an issue related to mental health, the hospital shall report this to the NICS and that individual will have a temporary protective order placed upon their status, and they will not be able to receive a firearm of any type until cleared by a licensed mental health professional of any mental health impairment that precludes them from obtaining a firearm. Types of mental health impairments that would preclude an individual from obtaining a firearm are: self-injurious behavior, wishing to cause harm to self or others, major depression with suicidal ideations, any other mental illness or disorder that is described in the DSM-V as being threatening to life or limb of self or others.

    Third, increased funding to provide every single school in the state with a full-time student resource officer. The student resource officer should be a “plain clothes” police officer who shall be armed with a concealed weapon, but not identified as such to the student body. THE SRO should also cause minimal intraday interruption to curricular learning.

    Fourth, if we have learned anything from the multitude of school-based tragedies over the past 20 years, it is that the individual(s) who carry out these acts are suffering from an unidentified mental health issue as described above. In most cases these issues are long-standing and undiagnosed. We need to increase the access to mental heath professionals as a function of our global healthcare system. Every health care policy sold within the borders of our state must have coverage at minimal cost to the end user for access to mental health care. 

    Fifth, I am fully aware of the fact that gun violence is not carried out by only those who obtain weapons legally, but by those who obtain them illegally. By its very nature, an illegal weapon should not be used by anyone in any circumstance, but they are, this is the reality we face. So, to curb illegal gun violence, we have got to reduce the number of firearms that are available illegally. I prefer a 3-pronged approach to this issue.

First, there needs to be increases in the penalty for those who obtain firearms through so called “straw purchases”. The current penalty for both the purchaser and the individual for whom the purchase is made is “up to” 5 years in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both. This is also the penalty for any felony firearms charge. This is again woefully inadequate. The penalty for straw purchases should be a minimum of 20 years jail time and a fine of $20,000 (note the use of the word “and”). This is the main way illegal firearms make their way onto the street, so the punishment should be accordingly severe.

Second, if a firearm is used during the commission of a felony, the above sentence of imprisonment, fine, or both is again applied. I would be inclined to double the penalty for this circumstance to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $4,000 and have the penalty include both the sentence and the fine, rather than ambiguity.

Third, any individual found to be in possession of a firearm which has previously been reported as stolen or has been acquired through any other illegal means shall be subject to imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of $4,000 plus restitution to the original owner.

                None of what I am proposing should be interpreted as anything more than gun safety reform. What I am proposing keeps guns out of the hands of those who wish to only do harm to others or themselves while simultaneously preserving individual and personal liberty. Our children’s lives are our most precious commodity and we should do anything and everything to ensure they are safe at school and in their own homes. My proposals focus on common sense, punishes criminals, and keeps the government out of the lives of law abiding citizens. It is also providing something more substantial than a mere offer of thoughts and prayers and then going right back to the status quo.