There has been much media coverage on the president's plans to control gun violence, but I fear we're missing the bigger picture.
Surely, the emotional frustration the president displayed while unveiling his latest executive order is worth noting and so are his ideas. But, realize, these are the same suggestions he proposed in 2013, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Congress ignored them.
By now you've heard about his proposals: More people who sell guns — at gun shows and online — should be licensed and get mandatory background checks on their buyers. The FBI should process the checks 24/7 with a group of new agents and notify states when someone has illegally tried to buy a gun.
Additionally, state law enforcement agencies are urged to share complete criminal histories with the federal database. They are being assured they can also legally share citizen's mental health information. The president proposes $500 million to expand mental health treatment nationwide. And, again, he wants more research into gun safety technology.
None of these ideas can be funded without Congressional approval, so, good luck with that. Capitol Hill apparently believes no new laws are needed to help stem the nation's problem of routine mass murder and gun-infused gang violence.
I used to think that, too, writing here previously that we already have enough gun laws on the books if we'd only just enforce them. But times are different now, and I've changed my mind. We have to do something to try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill — even if it's just taking baby steps toward this deadly nationwide problem.
The good news is that while the paralytic politicians in Washington continue to do nearly nothing, individual states are on a campaign of change. Once again, states are doing what Washington won't — passing new legislation focused on today's needs, not relying on yesterday's laws.
The Washington-based National Rifle Association used to spend the lion's share of lobbying money to ensure the interests of its membership were protected. But now gun control groups have attracted big-money supporters — like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has pledged at least $50 million to the anti-gun cause — and they've taken the fight directly to the states. They figure why bother with a deaf, dumb and blind-to-the-problem Congress when progress can be made one state at a time?
Just like the successful push for same-sex marriage laws, these folks are tackling their issue state-by-state.
So far, 18 states have passed tougher gun buyer background check laws. Nine states have adopted new laws to keep guns out of the hands of known domestic abusers.
The Connecticut governor's move to bar anyone whose name appears on the government's terrorist watch list from buying a gun is being considered by several other states.
In Virginia, the attorney general has declared that outsiders from 25 states who have concealed weapons permits will no longer be allowed to carry a weapon there.
Michigan's governor is set to veto (again) a bill that allows legally registered guns to be carried into schools.
Nevada and Maine seem poised to join the march toward adopting more stringent background checks. New Jersey is among the states wondering why ammunition is sold online.
While some will now try to shift the focus to whether the president's executive orders are legal, realize we are just days or weeks away from reading about the next American massacre. I hate to sound maudlin, but what happened most recently in Charleston, South Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; San Bernardino, California and thousands of other locations is no longer an anomaly; it's a way of life in America now. A shameful, routine truth.
Yes, 99.9 percent of all gun owners are responsible citizens, so it begs the question: Where are they on the issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of those who would use them for ill? To blindly accept the NRA's age-old mantra of, "We already have enough laws!" solves nothing. It leaves us powerless against the next mass shooting, the next gang carnage.
It's easy to pooh-pooh the various suggestions about how to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them. Critics of change seem to think that unless a proposal is 100 percent guaranteed to fix the gun problem in America we should reject it.
I'll take constitutionally sound baby steps over years of Washington's inaction any day.
To find out more about Diane Dimond visit her website at www.dianedimond.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Elvert Barnes