Why I believe gun rights advocates SHOULD comment after mass shootings

"Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it ... We have become numb to this." - President Barack Obama, October 1, 2015

President Obama is right: the response to mass shootings in "gun-free" zones has indeed become routine.

Gun ban extremists (including the president himself) don't even wait until the blood has been cleaned up to begin their fundraising efforts, and their calls for more gun control laws - proposals that, when examined, and had they been in place prior to the attack, would have changed nothing.

Politicians line up to express their condolences. Some provide their talking points in favor of "common sense" gun control, but most ignore the mental health elephant in the room.

Meanwhile, many gun rights advocates defer comment out of respect for the injured and deceased, who are victims of naive and cruel anti-gun political policy, and wait for ALL the facts to be known - something that our sensation-seeking media cannot seem to fathom despite endless examples of vastly inaccurate reporting.

Unfortunately, this results in media pundits and self-serving politicians vilifying gun owners. That's why I believe gun owners should comment after a mass shooting, as facts become known, even if ALL the facts aren't yet known.

What are the types of things we can say immediately?

For one, can say that peaceable gun owners are saddened by the tragedy. None of us ever wants to see a single person hurt or killed because a disturbed individual has decided to share his pain with the world, seeking notoriety by murdering innocent people.

We can also say that peaceable gun owners feel anger. Anger that schools and churches remain such soft targets. Anger that most educational institutions refuse any form of gun safety classes. Anger that anti-gun zealots like President Obama blame the gun "industry" for mass shootings instead of the mentally ill people who commit them. Anger that so many local governments impose "gun free" zones on their citizens even when it's painfully obvious that such restrictions have done nothing but enable killers to commit mass murder against helpless victims.

But most of all, I and other peaceable gun owners are angry every time we hear our elected officials call for more and more restrictive gun control laws when existing laws are not being enforced. We know new laws won't be enforced any more than existing laws, so what elected officials are really saying is they are more interested in grandstanding than actually reducing crime.

While I tend to agree with the president that this is all becoming too routine, one particular change is beginning to formulate.

Douglas County, OR Sheriff John Hanlin has urged the media not to name the killer who carried out the attack on the no-guns zone. Early reports indicated the murderous coward had paid attention to past massacres, and was attracted to the notoriety the media have given to those with the highest body counts. Sheriff Hanlin's request sparked a debate between CNN's Don Lemon (who initially said the news network would ignore the sheriff's request), and Fox News' Megyn Kelly, who tweeted her support for the sheriff, and urged Lemon to reconsider. And on Friday, DPA International reports during a segment with Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, a CNN anchor said the network would not name the murderous coward at UCC, but instead used the words "gunman," "shooter," "this man" or "this person" to describe him.

I'd like to propose that it's time for another "routine" policy to be upended: the policy of "going dark" - of refusing to provide comment - in the immediate aftermath of a multiple-victim public shooting.

Some facts are ALREADY known, and we SHOULD respond to those:
- The murderous coward purchased his guns through federally licensed dealers, though whom background checks were performed.

The immediate response to this knowledge should be to note that a so-called "universal" background check law would not have prevented this massacre, just as it would not have prevented so many others.

That way, when politicians like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) go on television and say things like "It’s past time we took action to address this problem and we should start by taking reasonable steps - like enhanced background checks- to prevent these tragedies from occurring,” the natural follow-up question from the journalist conducting the interview would be, "but as gun rights advocates are pointing out, the killer did submit to background checks. Senator, why are you saying that background checks would 'prevent the tragedies from occurring' when this killer went through mutiple background checks?"

- The murderous coward took six firearms to carry out his attack.

The immediate response to this knowledge should be to note that so-called "common sense" laws prohibiting magazines with a standard capacity of greater than 7 or 10 rounds do nothing to stop determined killers - they just bring more guns (which, again, they obtain legally with full background checks!) One-gun-a-month laws also won't help, it should be added, as proven by the killer at Virginia Tech, who simply waited the 30 days required at the time by Virginia law, and purchased a second handgun.

- The massacre was carried out by the murderous coward on a campus that has a "no-guns" policy.

There has been some confusion over this point, given a 2011 court ruling that said that Oregon public colleges and universities no longer have authority to ban weapons on the physical grounds of a campus, and reports of at least one veteran who said he was carrying on campus Thursday (unfortunately he was too far away from the attack to be able to respond). But who better to make themselves available to clarify the law for confused journalists than knowledgable gun rights advocates?

The fact is that "Umpqua Community College has been established as a gun-free zone thanks to a loophole in state law that allows private colleges and universities like UCC to prohibit weapons throughout the entire campus including grounds. All campuses in Oregon have discretion as to whether to permit concealed handguns inside buildings, dormitories, event centers, and classrooms, and UCC exercised that discretion to ban guns.

- Mental health issues and policies play a primary role in these attacks.

With all the talk about mass shootings and mental health over the past few days, someone on a national stage needs to be telling the story about the NRA's efforts to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them. Wouldn't it have been a helpful part of the national discourse these past few days if the country had been made aware that, in August, Sen. Jon Coryn introduced an NRA-backed bill aimed at preventing the mentally ill from obtaining firearms?

As noted by Politico.com at the time of its introduction, the new legislation tries to patch some holes in the current national background checks system by encouraging states, through the promise of federal funding, to send more information on mental-health records to the national database. Cornyn’s bill would also create a path for people who may be mentally ill to be ordered into treatment by a judge without being involuntarily committed. And to make things even better, the measure doesn’t increase existing federal funding for the current background checks database or mental health programs.

With a president so obviously emotionally-tied to enacting new gun control laws, and with a 24-hour news media so one-sidedly opposed to the right to bear arms, I personally believe the gun rights advocates can no longer afford to surrender the first week of airtime to the opposition. Because as the president notes, people are becoming numb, and by the time all the facts are known and we do speak, the news media will be on to the next story, and the response will be treated as an afterthought, instead of being a centerpiece of the dialogue that happens in the immediate aftermath of such an attack.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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