“Even as overall crime rates have gone down in recent years, we’ve seen an alarming increase in seemingly random mass violence. Americans are right to demand action from their elected leaders, and I’m tired of seeing Congress respond with partisan politics instead of real solutions.” – Senator Johnny Isakson
Senators Isakson and David Perdue have very different proposals to deal with mass violence. Isakson wants to find out the underlying causes of mass casualty incidents. Perdue advocates taking a baby step (redesigning schools for safety), just so that he can say when campaigning that he has done something to address the issue.
For many years, I’ve followed the rightward drift of Senator Isakson from the admirable “get things done” moderate that he was in the Georgia legislature. With the fractured and broken nature of DC, I understand why he became just another knee-jerk GOP vote on every issue. Leaving office, he has again returned to the center, as evidenced by his extraordinary introduction of common-sense mass violence research legislation, which, although he takes great pains to deny it, inevitably means gun control.
By way of contrast, we have the highly-partisan Perdue NRA-type approach of dealing with symptoms (school design) rather than the underlying disease (guns). Of course, schools should take measures to ensure safety, including drills, adding armed guards, and modifying the physical plant (among other pro-gun lobbyists suggestions to get us to talk about something other than gun control), but that alone will not significantly lessen mass violence by guns in our schools and elsewhere.
There are many other common-sense things that can be done legislatively to lessen gun violence overall. See my previous columns for a long list of them. However, currently no one can rank these suggestions as to effectiveness. Why? Because the CDC has been prohibited from doing any gun research by the Dickey Amendment. In a public health meeting earlier this year, I asked the head of the CDC about this topic. He said he can only do what’s funded by Congress.
Which brings us to Senator Isakson’s “Expanding Research on Mass Violence Prevention Act” which provides the CDC $75 million annually in funding (for five years) for research into both the causes of mass violence incidents and what can be done to intervene to lessen them. Politically savvy as always, the bill specifically states that it is not “advocating or promoting gun control.” Thus, Isakson is defining violence to include “knives, clubs, motor vehicles, firearms, or explosives” to lessen the NRA lobbyist reaction, but we all know that firearms are the overwhelming instrument of choice in USA mass casualty incidents.
Let’s contrast this bill with Perdue’s “School Safety Clearinghouse Act.” Perdue apparently thinks that the underlying problem in school shootings is that “bad actors were able to bypass security due to loopholes in the building’s design,” and 86 percent of Americans agree with him about poor school security being a factor in mass shootings (Gallup, 8/19).
However, Perdue doesn’t say much in his recent press release about guns other than repeat NRA talking points: “enforce existing law and keep guns out of the wrong hands.” In other words, the public is wrong about the need for legislation to tighten background checks (89 percent support), ban semi-automatic rifles (63 percent), and so on.
Somehow, Perdue believes that our basic gun problem is caused by our law enforcement community which has chosen not to enforce our firearm control laws. My favorite uncle, an NYC precinct commander, would roll over in his grave if he heard that one.
Isakson is not a saint, but he must be commended for having the courage to propose research into the causes of mass violence and what can be done to ameliorate the situation. Even if he does water down the bill by reaffirming his commitment to not directly addressing guns.
Perdue, on the other hand, just continues to spout lines from the NRA playbook, dealing with reactive issues versus underlying causes. Remember that in 2020.