Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

On gun violence, moving past symbolism and symptoms

The next time you hear someone accuse a Republican presidential candidate of pandering to the base, kindly steer him or her to Hillary Clinton’s plan for addressing gun violence.

It is a bewildering mix of references ranging from the fictitious (the “gun-show loophole,” which is neither a loophole nor applies to gun shows) to the arbitrary ( “assault weapons” so classified by people who wouldn’t know an AR-15 from a Colt .45) to the already illegal (banning “straw purchases” of weapons) to the unconstitutional (allowing people to sue makers of firearms used in murders, just as the makers of hammers, knives, rope and matches are liable; oh, wait …) to the potentially acceptable (better enforcement of existing laws and efforts to keep guns away from felons and the mentally ill).

Hey, it beats talking about her emails or Joe Biden.

Clinton’s platform was of course prompted by last week’s horrific shootings at a community college in Oregon, where a 26-year-old man killed nine classmates.

Few details of the shooting were known before President Barack Obama told Americans it was OK to “politicize” these events. The rush to seize political leverage was unseemly, but sort of understandable: Given the tenuous (at best) relationship between the facts in most of these killings and the “solutions” Obama and Clinton favor, waiting for details doesn’t help their case.

As in most of these killings, the facts suggest most proposed laws wouldn’t have helped. What the Oregon gunman had most in common with previous mass killers were histories of mental illness, broken families and a demented desire for infamy .

Yet the proposed solutions never change. Yes, it would be exceedingly difficult to solve problems such as balancing individual rights with new restrictions on the mentally ill, or reversing the decades-long breakdown of the American family and the society that’s crumbling around it, or weighing the public’s right to know about what happens in these cases vs. the responsibility not to encourage copycats. But more difficult than effectively reducing the number of guns in a country believed to have as many firearms as people?

Republicans are accused of being the NRA’s lackeys because they don’t back Democrats’ mostly symbolic gestures. Or because their own “solutions” tend to center on making guns even more commonplace in public.

So here’s an idea for Republicans looking for a different approach: Go hard, and sincerely, after the other issues involved in shootings.

Don’t just talk about the social and economic collapse in large swaths of cities such as Chicago, controlled by Democrats for decades and home to a shooting every 2.8 hours . Channel the late Jack Kemp — or his modern-day successor in many ways, Rep. Paul Ryan — and champion real ways to address this urban decay.

You say you’re the party of family values? Well, while we can’t prevent every divorce any more than we can prevent every gun death, we can look for ways to strengthen families through better public policy and more reinforcement of civil society. That includes supporting families and communities with members suffering from mental illness.

It’s not enough to point out the uselessness of others’ ideas. A party that deserves to govern will offer real solutions of its own.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.