doCNN host Don Lemon took a surprising turn on the Tom Joyner Radio Show yesterday, turning from a staunch "no one needs an assault rifle to shoot a deer" viewpoint to instead claim "the vast majority" of gun-related killings are not the results of military-style assault weapons. He based his "change of heart" on a recent CDC study that concluded an astounding 335,000 firearm deaths have occurred with handguns over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, military styled assault weapons only accounted for 560 deaths over the same period. While Lemon is right, and Americans are disproportionately focused on a type of weapon that isn't the problem, the idea that moving across the aisle is meaningful is terribly wrong.
Don Lemon on air:
As noted in this New York Times piece, mental health is again on the table in the gun control debate. And while it's common ground across the aisle, both sides fear what pushing the angle would mean for partisan goals. Senator Harry Reid, a longtime proponent of heightened background checks and weapon restrictions, fears that pushing mental health would be viewed as a distraction to conceal a flawed approach to gun control. Meanwhile, gun rights activists fear mental health laws could lead to new federal gun laws. A hugely anemic mental health section was appended to the mostly derailed gun control bill yesterday, but only accomplished the re-authorization of funding for currently extant mental health programs (some funding caps were even lowered).
To make it clear, this is something everyone agrees on. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans now blame the mental health system as the largest factor in recent American mass-shootings. Both parties agree that the failed mental health system has played a large role in gun violence. Yet we don't meaningfully act.
Somehow something everyone agrees on has been held victim to some very divisive motives. This tendency is why moves like Lemon's won't do much. In the current congressional climate, Lemon's stats can be spun in two directions, both at odds with one another. For some, 560 deaths over 30 years are a call for legislation. For others, not even 335,000 deaths warrant reform.
But we shouldn't be focusing on pushing a political agenda. Instead, we should fix the problem everyone agrees on: healthy people don't shoot each other, yet it keeps happening.