On Saturday, Democratic presidential hopeful former Colorado Governor Hickenlooper will bring his 21 point gun control platform to survivors of Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. While it is fitting that he should address gun violence there with survivors of one of the most horrific school shootings of children, much of his platform lacks substance or hits points already raised by others.
1. While I applaud Gov. Hickenlooper’s 22- point gun plan effort to prevent gun violence, his upfront idea of comparing a renewable gun license every 5 years akin to a driver’s license is misplaced. A legal license to drive a car is a privilege—not a Constitutional right and therefore no comparison. Comparing a right guaranteed under the Constitution whether it’s voting rights or gun rights, a comparison to a privilege to drive is like comparing apples and oranges. They are not the same.
2. I also understand the focus of many gun control advocates on school shootings and mass shootings, however, as a former prosecutor I know that more gun deaths and injuries stem from violence in many major cities than mass shootings. A continued failure to adequately address the reasons and substantive steps for their prevention will continue to elude any real gun violence solution which Hickenlooper fails to do. Gun violence in cities such as my native hometown of Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, D. C. and other major cities requires a more broad band approach which simple fixes will not cure. If Hickenlooper or any other politician spends some time in these cities and their areas plagued with gun violence, one will get a glimpse of what is lacking in the areas for survival. One needs to educate themselves on the reality of socio-economic issues in these cities to address the overall crime and gun issues.
3. While no perfect plan exists, Hickenlooper’s plan requiring persons turning 21 years old to take mandatory gun safety and proper storage classes appears more geared towards accidental gun deaths and injuries committed in home –rather than suicides, mass shootings, school shootings like Sandy Hook and systemic gun violence committed by criminals in cities.
4. In addressing school shootings such as Sandy Hook, Hickenlooper’s proposed anonymous reporting on potential threats would only add duties to teachers and other school personnel. Do school personnel need to be following up on anonymous tips plus doing active shooter drills or should time be spent elsewhere to solve the problem? Time and energy spent focusing on investigating anonymous tips would be better served focusing on laws to prevent guns from getting in the wrong hands and assault rifles, high capacity cartridges from getting into any hands.
While Governor Hickenlooper’s plan is meant to be comprehensive, it fails at fully explaining the substance in many of his points. We need substance to rid ourselves of gun violence and not talking points. And we need gun laws that will pass Constitutional muster. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in futility.
Washington, D.C. based Debbie Hines is a former Baltimore City prosecutor.