Editorial other views

The following editorial published on Aug. 6 in The Boston Herald:

Bullet-resistant backpacks are now being sold in major retail stores. The idea is that when the next school shooter opens fire in the hallway, fleeing children who are shot in the back will have a better chance of surviving.

It is a new consideration that children and parents have to make in 2019: Is my child dressed for style? Is she dressed for weather? Is she dressed for war?

The present condition is unacceptable. High-profile mass shootings have become a normal occurrence and this weekend brought the scourge front and center when 31 were shot dead and more than 50 injured in Texas and Ohio. These were innocent victims out shopping or enjoying a vibrant entertainment district.

It happens too often – laughter and joy turn to screams and horror.

Something must be done, and something can be done.

Reacting to the shootings, Rep. Stephen Lynch got it right, saying, “I don’t know if there’s a single, one-hundred-percent solution, but there might be a hundred one-percent solutions.”

One of those solutions was endorsed (Monday) by President Trump. Red flag laws would allow law enforcement, family or a household member, to report an at-risk individual to the courts for a temporary restriction from firearms.

Red flag laws form a critical part of the solution to mass shootings because so often we hear afterward about the myriad warning signs that potential shooters typically display leading up to an attack. Shortly before the atrocities in El Paso and Dayton, a grandmother in Lubbock prevented a similar event by alerting authorities that her disturbed and suicidal grandson was planning to shoot up a hotel with an illegally obtained AK-47.

But since so many weapons are obtained legally, law enforcement needs a tool to temporarily get them out of the hands of would-be shooters when they clearly pose an immediate threat, not only to those around them, but also to themselves. The relationship between rising rates of suicide and mass shootings in American society is not clearly understood, but with roughly two-thirds of gun deaths constituting suicides, it bears careful scrutiny.

The president highlighted this (Monday), when he was short on detail but correct in his focus on mental health. “We must reform our mental health laws,” Trump said. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.” With record numbers of Americans succumbing to despair and addiction, even while millions more rely on antidepressants to survive, it is clear our society is in the midst of a crisis.

On the cultural side, President Trump resurrected concerns about violent video games and exposure to extreme ideologies on the internet.

Although those talking points have not been successful in the past, the president is right to be considering the role that technology is playing in our mental health decline. Many on both sides of the aisle have raised the alarm about excessive screen time, social media use and desensitization to violent imagery among young people.

And yes, we must look at gun control to see whether there are areas where all can agree we can limit the firepower that is on our streets.

There is work to be done, and it should begin in earnest.

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