In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, most Americans are in favor of reforming policy to prevent the repeat of such tragedies. It is certainly true that current policies in the area of gun ownership and mental healthcare should be re-examined and changed. However, the specific changes cannot and must not be done haphazardly. Discussion, debate, and evidence must be applied to this cause in order to produce effective policy change.
If guns are used by someone untrained or unstable, if they are not stored safely, or if they are used for unintended purposes, guns can pose a threat to safety. Addressing how government and society deals with such threats is the only path to stopping horrifying acts of violence against our most vulnerable and innocent citizens.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy made this point quite effectively at a Monday press conference from Hartford. He said that at the completion of the investigation, he would ask, "Is there a law, a policy, or a procedure we could have had on the books that might have prevented this tragedy?" He is right. Evidence-based and solution-driven policy making is the only way forward.
Too often in a discussion about guns or mental healthcare or any other policy area, grandstanding for constituents and theatrics for media drive our elected officials. We cannot let this happen in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, as it is now clear just how high the stakes are.
Will limiting the types of guns help? Let us find out. Will regulating the size of magazines prevent such tragedies? Let us examine the evidence. Will improving access to treatment for those suffering from mental illness improve safety? Let us engage the medical community.
Do not pass "a law, a policy, or a procedure" simply for the sake of doing so. Pass them because they will fix our problems. Too often the gun debate is framed as an all or nothing proposition, and thus results in failure. In between, there is tremendous space for policy reform—reform that 26 families in Connecticut wish happened last month, rather than next.
About John Hudak Fellow at the Brookings Institution
John Lott Author of 'More Guns, Less Crime.'
Erich Pratt Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America
Joshua Horwitz Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner Cofounder and CEO of MomsRising