We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about the skittishness and squishiness of some Republican lawmakers when it comes to supporting the Second Amendment amidst an anti-gun blitz on the part of Democrats and their allies in the media intent on exploiting high-profile mass shootings and acts of “gun violence”; from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s call for a special session to enact a “temporary mental health restraining order” that’s a “red flag” law by another name to the derailing of Constitutional Carry in North Carolina (and likely South Carolina as well)… not to mention the gun control bill that was approved by Congress and signed into law by Joe Biden following the murders at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas last year.
Many voters are growing increasingly concerned about crime and public safety, and that means that many politicians are growing increasingly concerned about appealing to them ahead of the 2024 elections. While most elected Republicans are still taking a dim view of gun bans and other infringements on the right to keep and bear arms, Second Amendment activists and those of us who don’t believe that gun control is an effective (or constitutional) way to improve public safety should be worried as well. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have a tendency to want to “do something” in response to public concerns, and we’ve already seen what that can look like when ostensibly pro-2A officials decide its time to triangulate on the gun issue.
Enter Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who recently suggested to the Washington Examiner there’s a “middle ground” to be foundthat for Republicans on public safety without impacting the Second Amendment rights of Americans.
“If you’re a suburban mom and you’re dropping your kids off at school, you worry every single day, ‘Is my kids’ school going to be the next mass shooting? Or my church or my synagogue or the planned pregnancy center that I volunteer at? Is this going to be the next one?’ And because I say gun violence is bad, people automatically think I’m saying gun control,” she said.
She suggested that there are actions that can be taken that don’t amount to restricting gun rights. According to her, one of these is “a mass or active shooter alert when there is a mass shooting to allow people in a half-mile radius of the shooting to know to take cover, maybe not leave your building or your home or your work, if that’s happening, to give people a warning.”
In addition, Mace said strengthening background checks as well as “hardening our schools and synagogues and churches with leftover COVID funds” could be viable policy solutions.
“There are so many things that we can do where we can show a middle ground that the vast majority of Americans support,” she explained.
I’ll give Mace some credit for (mostly) not trotting out watered-down gun control measures and calling them “reasonable” steps that Republicans should take, though her talk about “strengthening background checks” is so vague that’s its utterly meaningless. What exactly does she believe needs strengthening? Is she talking about imposing “universal” background checks on all private transfers of firearms, adding more records to the NICS system, or something else? It’s impossible to know based on her ethereal statement, which already makes it a less than viable policy “solution” in my book.
I also have serious concerns about her proposal for an active shooter alert. In theory there’s not much to object to, but how would that work in practice? Most active shooting incidents are over in a matter of minutes, which makes sending out a timely alert a difficult proposition. It’s also generally not known how many victims there are until after the shooting is over, so how would authorities determine whether or not a particular shooting is a “mass shooting” while its taking place? In some circumstances it might be possible to make that determination while a shooting is ongoing, but those situations would be few and far between. In the real world, authorities would likely end up sending out alerts when no mass shooting or threat to the general public exists; both increasing some folks’ fear of these rare events as well as causing some individuals to tune out the alerts when they’re issued.
Hardening up soft targets is Mace’s best proposal, both from a policy and political point of view, but that alone isn’t likely to generate the type of enthusiasm that she and other Republicans are hoping for heading into the 2024 elections. In fact, it would probably just play to the arguments of the gun control lobby, who’d argue that the GOP recognizes the danger to kids but refuses to side with their safety over the profits of gun makers (or some similar nonsense).
Mace is right that Republicans can’t just shout “shall not be infringed” and expect that to be a winning argument with non-gun owners and independent voters, and I think she’s at least largely looking in the right direction by steering away from gun bans, “red flag” laws, and other policies that go against our fundamental right to armed self-defense. It’s not even enough for the GOP to hammer away at the Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies that are putting repeat violent offenders back on the street with almost no consequences for their crimes, though that must be a part of the Republicans’ public safety platform in 2024.
While Democrats are focused on a supply-side “solution” to gun violence that depends on reducing (and ultimately eradicating) legal gun ownership, Republicans should be highlighting efforts to reduce the demand for firearms among those who will use them to commit violent crimes. Initiatives like Operation Ceasefire, which takes a carrot-and-stick approach to getting prolific offenders and those at-risk of becoming one to put down their guns, have been hugely successful when implemented in cities across the country, and that would be a good starting point for Republicans running in 2024 who want to demonstrate their concern for public safety and respect for the Second Amendment. Repairing our broken criminal justice system is also critical, though many voters may view that as a step removed from their own personal safety.
Perhaps the most important step Republicans can take (beyond preserving and strengthening our ability to protect ourselves against deadly threats) would be to address the crisis in our mental health system. One of the reasons why “red flag” laws are so popular among the political class is it allows them to say they’re “doing something” without tackling the shortfalls in inpatient beds and mental health professionals, which comes with a much higher price tag than imposing an Extreme Risk Protection Law. But if the goal is to deal with dangerous individuals before they can act on their homicidal or suicidal impulses, removing them from the general public and ensuring they’re getting treatment is a far better solution than taking their legally-owned guns away and leaving them to their own devices.
I’m not sold on the specifics of what Mace is offering, but it’s at least a conversation starter. I’ve actually reached out to her office to see if she’s willing to come on Cam & Co to have a deeper discussion about how the GOP can do the right thing, and not just something, when it comes to crime, public safety, and our individual right of self-defense heading into 2024.