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COUNTERPOINT: Restricting Second Amendment Rights Isn’t Solution to Mass Shootings

For an alternate point of view see: POINT: Addressing Gun Violence: Beyond Mental Health Rhetoric

In the aftermath of a tragedy, the search for solutions can often lead to extreme measures.

The recent heartbreaking shooting in Maine has left my fellow New Englanders grieving from an extraordinary loss. It’s a harsh reminder of the profound impact of senseless violence. However, the key to reducing gun violence doesn’t lie in restricting law-abiding citizens’ self-defense rights through more laws on top of the hundreds of existing federal and state laws across the nation.

Instead, our nation looks to the approach we take in neighboring New Hampshire. In the Granite State, we focus on bolstering the enforcement of our existing laws and providing more mental health support for those at risk of violence.

Red flag laws, which allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals considered to be a threat to themselves or others, are touted as a means to enhance public safety. However, many question their effectiveness and disapprove of infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized the importance of upholding the Second Amendment, ruling that certain gun restrictions are unconstitutional. Furthermore, recent federal court decisions have blocked California’s assault weapon ban, highlighting the potential for well-intentioned laws to have unintended consequences. That backdrop underscores the need for a thoughtful evaluation of any new law’s impact on constitutional rights.

More gun restrictions don’t automatically lead to safer communities. Just look at many of our nation’s cities and states with the largest number of gun laws that have some of the nation’s highest rates of gun violence.

One major issue raising questions about red flag laws is their broad scope, which often results in infringing on individuals’ rights. These laws have been criticized for their lack of specificity and potential for misuse. When red flag warnings prioritize appeasement over addressing root causes, they may lead to unjust violations of an individual’s Second Amendment rights. The risk of false accusations or the weaponization of these laws against innocent individuals is a legitimate concern that cannot be ignored.

Another issue that requires serious attention is the abysmal rate at which the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes gun crimes. While red flag laws may be touted as a solution to gun violence, it is essential to address the systemic problems within the justice system that impede the prosecution of these crimes.

An overburdened legal system and a lack of resources dedicated to prosecuting gun offenses contribute to a situation in which dangerous individuals may escape the consequences of their actions.

However, there is an approach that works, one New Hampshire has taken for nearly a decade. Instead of relying on red flag laws, my state has enhanced public safety through the strong enforcement of the existing gun laws already on the books. Focusing on stricter implementation and comprehensive enforcement mechanisms for these laws is a more effective approach to preventing gun violence than leaving citizens defenseless. By ensuring that individuals who are prohibited from owning firearms are unable to acquire them, we can mitigate potential threats and allow for self-defense in necessary circumstances.

The reality is that to address and reduce gun violence, our nation needs to focus on expanding mental health services and ensuring current gun laws are appropriately and consistently enforced. Addressing the root causes of gun violence, such as untreated mental health issues, is a more productive and compassionate way to promote public safety. Providing mental health resources and support can help individuals in crisis receive the help they need, ultimately preventing violence and tragedy.

Our state has a responsibility to invest in the mental well-being of its citizens, as it is directly linked to public safety. By addressing the mental health crisis at its core, we can reduce the likelihood of individuals reaching a point where they pose a threat to themselves or others better than any law could ever assure.

Senate Republicans Launch Pro-Gun Second Amendment Caucus

Republicans in the state Senate have launched what’s being billed as a pro-gun caucus that its chairman says will work to counteract gun misinformation in the state government.

The Second Amendment Caucus will give its members “more opportunities to become actively involved in protecting and strengthening lawful firearms ownership,” Sen. Chris Dush (R-Cameron) said in a press release announcing the association.

Dush and 13 other senators—all Republicans serve as inaugural caucus members.

Dush told DVJournal he would be working to get more Democrats involved in the caucus, noting that the state House’s Second Amendment caucus, on which he previously served, has included Democrats as well as Republicans.

Dush said the newly formed caucus has no immediate legislative aims and instead focuses on promoting accurate firearm education.

“What we want to do is get together and start planning a way to deal with the misinformation coming from the left about weapons,” Dush said.

“The phrase about ‘gun violence,’ it’s about violence, period,” he argued. “Our society is going through social contagions with psychological issues and everything, and the violence isn’t just limited to firearms. The left, though, is using this increase in violence as an opportunity to try and focus on the instrument rather than the root causes of what’s causing the psychological issues.”

“We need to make sure that we’re getting the message out that we need to address the core issues that are the causes, and we need to remind people of why the Second Amendment and Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania state constitution are there in the first place.”

The state constitutional article referenced by Dush, among the oldest gun rights provisions in the United States, stipulates that “the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” Gun advocates have pointed to this early code as evidence of the country’s longstanding culture of individual gun rights.

Dush argued that modern Pennsylvania is rife with gun laws in contrast to its pro-gun roots.

“Pennsylvania’s got more laws on the books dealing with firearms than you can shake a stick at,” he said. “I think if you just printed out the sections of the various codes that deal with firearms, and just those sections, I think it’s several inches thick.”

One of the problems with gun violence in the state, Dush said, is prosecutors don’t aggressively follow through with gun charges.

“We don’t have the prosecutors going after these things,” he said, claiming that the state sees “so many rap sheets of firearm charges” with hefty “mandatory minimum sentences,” and prosecutors end up “just dropping them over and over and over.”

“And you have guys who were repeat offenders whose firearms charges were never prosecuted,” he added. “If they start prosecuting those and going after those mandatory minimum sentences in the first place, you would see a drop in firearms used in the commission of a crime.”

Dush said the caucus is not looking to make splashy efforts to pass gun control laws, particularly as the House and Governor’s Office remain in Democratic hands.

“I’m not going to put stuff out there just to gain headlines,” he said. “If it hasn’t been introduced, we’re probably not going to unless someone comes out with something novel.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro has indicated his support for gun control laws. As attorney general, he voiced support for what he said was “a state’s authority to protect its citizens and establish gun safety laws.” Before his inauguration as governor, he suggested pursuing at least some gun regulations while in office.

Earlier this year, Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) introduced an “assault weapons” ban meant to ban dozens of models of popular rifles in the state. Last month the state House passed two gun control laws: A “red flag” law and a universal background check law. Those bills remain pending in the Senate.  

On June 12, at 11 a.m. on the front steps of the state capitol, the Pennsylvania Senate and House Second Amendment Caucus, Dush, and Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland), along with other pro-Second Amendment legislators, will join with law-abiding firearm owners from across the commonwealth for the 2023 Right to Keep and Bear Arms Rally.

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