The gun lobby is wrong in thinking law enforcement failures in the Florida massacre are arguments against gun control. They illustrate why we must look harder at the devices that do the mass killing and how they get in hands of people even law officers are reluctant to confront.

There are concrete ideas to discuss, beginning with science.


Public health research should consider guns. But the Dickey Amendment prevents research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors are inhibited in asking about guns in homes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms can’t distribute its data. All these limits are products of NRA lobbying against research. Research produced auto safety ideas with proven benefits. Fewer people might have guns in homes if they were required to have liability insurance for accidents or faced meaningful criminal penalties for negligence in storage.

Would any member of Congress from Arkansas vote to open the door to scientific research? The late Jay Dickey, a Republican from Pine Bluff who brought about the ban on CDC research, came to regret it before he died.


Florida legislators, including Republicans, are talking about raising the age on gun purchases to 21. The NRA has resisted this. It’s worth consideration, though I admit the contradiction in barring civilian purchase of firearms by people old enough to go to war with even more powerful weapons.

Can’t we legislate an end to bump stocks, which effectively create automatic weapons of mass slaughter? Yesterday?


Can’t we end the gun show loophole on background checks and move to a universal background check system? Yesterday?

We make women wait days to obtain a legal medical procedure. Why not a waiting period for weapon purchases, particularly semi-automatic military-style weapons of little practical use except killing humans?

Even some conservatives support red-flag laws that would allow a due process court procedure to take guns away from people who’ve demonstrated a threat to society. Let’s have that debate.

Oregon has extended the law on domestic abuse to take convicted guns away in cases of nonspousal abuse. It also prevents gun purchases by stalkers and those under domestic abuse orders. Let’s do it.


Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) was rebuffed by the legislature in 2017 for his effort to take guns from those convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery. Tucker’s bill got 31 votes in the 100-member House. Republican Rep. Bullet Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) actually said it would just be wrong to take away a Second Amendment right for a “relatively minor encounter.” Beating your girlfriend is a minor thing to the gun defenders.

Then the biggie. A ban on assault weapons. It brought an end to mass killings in Australia. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — as easy to buy as an AR-15, cracked a Florida massacre survivor — has already enunciated the NRA’s slippery slope argument on this. With what weapon would it end? I say let’s debate it.

The old belief that voting the NRA line is the safest political course may be due for rethinking, at least in some states, beginning with swing-state Florida. Tell Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia), Senate Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and anybody else who claims to be a legislative leader to hold the debates. Then call the roll, as Arkansas legislators sometimes shout when exasperated by talking. Make a record of those who value guns more than people. And then let the people, roll calls in hand, vote at the polls. The NRA wants to kill this idea in the crib. They can read the pro-gun-control national public opinion polls as well as I can.

Let’s also get a vote from the country’s teachers on making them security guards — on top of everything else they do.

Of course, we should provide, at whatever cost, comprehensive school safety measures. But my bet is the cost would be a lot lower if the threats didn’t include the country’s oversupply of military-style weapons.