No silver bullet for gun safety and school shootings

As a gun owner, and someone who has been the victim of violent crime, I am well aware that our police, sheriff deputies, and law enforcement personnel cannot be everywhere at once. Public safety is both a community and personal responsibility. We each have roles to play in building and maintaining safer communities.

Our U.S. Supreme Court just overturned a regulation from the Trump Administration that bans the sale of bump stocks. Bump stocks came into the market in the early 2000s and were determined in 2010 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to not be a weapon. Bump stocks are a modification to a rifle that aids the shooter in pulling the trigger, potentially to fire several hundred rounds a minute. However, bump stocks, like guns and rifles themselves, don’t detonate and cannot alone pull a trigger.

Yes, our nation has too many guns, and despite news media statements to the contrary, we are not the only Western nation that has experienced the tragedy of mass shootings. We do need to do more with some commonsense reforms to register and regulate gun sales, such as fixing the loopholes that have long existed around private sales and gun shows.

Here in Atlanta, there were two major shootings last week. A lunchtime argument in the food court at Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta escalated into an armed felon shooting and seriously injuring three people. An off-duty police officer shot the gunman and was able to potentially save the lives of dozens of others nearby. Among those in the crowd was a man who hopped on a Gwinnett Transit bus heading north, when another argument ensued with a bus passenger legally carrying his firearm.

This second argument ended with the witness to that first shooting, also a convicted felon, taking the gun away from its legal owner, and then shooting him dead. This second assailant then took the bus, 17 passengers and its driver hostage. The crime was followed by a three-county police chase north into Gwinnett County, and then back south into DeKalb, ended by a DeKalb Police SWAT team in Tucker along Hugh Howell Road. That second shooter killed the gun owner, and—while being taken into custody—he acknowledged he was suffering from an unnamed mental illness. I suspect that we will eventually learn that to be the case with that first shooter of the day as well.

I recently participated in a panel discussion on a global news network, recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. One of the panel members was a survivor of that tragedy who witnessed the murder of his best friend while he was spared and after his sister Rachel Scott was the first student shot that day.

Craig Scott is now a renowned motivational speaker, author and filmmaker who works primarily with high school and college students to prevent mental health challenges and feelings of isolation. And while Craig also favors more gun control, he also says that new gun restrictions are not the silver bullet for greater public and gun safety.

Mr. Scott is on to something. To protect our children, as well as the public, we can do many things simultaneously to help make this world a safer place. Greater use of networked security cameras, intentionally and thoughtfully hardening soft targets where people gather and congregate, as well as increasing in-bed patient options for the mentally ill, starting with those at risk of harming themselves. We don’t need to look much further than our un-housed populations to see a mental health crisis on our streets, or just ask any sheriff about the population of their jails and those awaiting trial. Jails are detention centers and not mental health hospitals. They don’t have the tools, staff, or budgets to deal with this growing challenge. Today’s jail detainee, released from custody without their medications and with no place to go, is not likely to become a productive citizen the following week. Desperation and limited choices quite often catalyze more bad outcomes.

How about we spend some time and resources preventing/treating and reducing mental illness, much more likely to trigger an act of violence against others than simply owning a weapon or a bump stock? We might find that a short and long term better use of limited public resources and political ammunition. Worst case, pilot this in several urban areas and states and see what the impacts are on violent crime and shootings and even finding felons in possession of firearms. Better to start with targets that most all can aim at together.

Bill Crane is political analyst and commentator in metro Atlanta, as well as a columnist for The Champion, DeKalb Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can contact him or comment on a column at


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