Can we talk?

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., shooting on Valentine’s Day, the gun control debate rages as it does after each successive mass shooting and yet, no progress is made toward a solution because people on each side of the various arguments simply talk over one another.

The problem is that the issue is continually framed as a “gun control” issue which immediately sends the two sides into their hardened bunkers from where they launch their attack.

The fact is, only a small percentage of Americans would say all gun sales should be made illegal and an even smaller sliver of Americans would say gun owners should be forced to give up their guns. Americans are almost unanimous in their opinion that gun ownership is protected via the second amendment. So let’s dismiss those positions out of hand and move to the real debate which is, what factors should be considered in gun sales and ownership.

We suggest this starting point where we may find near unanimous agreement: that a 19-year-old boy who had been expelled from school for multiple disciplinary reasons, and who had been visited at home more than 30 times by his local police department for various acts of aggression and misbehavior, and who had declared publicly that he aspired to kill students at school, should not have been able to buy an AR-15, or any gun for that matter?

Can we all agree to that? If so, then let’s commence the discussion on how we can prevent such an obvious disaster in the making.

Some ideas suggested by the Billings (Mont.) Gazette that could help:

• Red Flag laws that allow law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily restrain an individual from possession of guns because that person is proven to be a danger to himself or others. Such laws also allow immediate family to initiate such petitions, and provide that the ill individual has the right to be heard in court. California, Connecticut, Indiana and Washington have laws providing for gun violence restraining orders.

• Closing the “boyfriend loophole” as proposed by S.1539 and HR 3207 in the U.S. Senate and House. Federal law prohibits gun possession by spouses convicted of domestic abuse, the law does not apply when the abuser is dating the victim. The law should bar gun possession by abusive dating partners, as well as spouses.

• Consistent reporting of people who shouldn’t have guns to the national background check database. The Texas church gunman should have been in the database, but wasn’t because the U.S. military failed to report his conviction for attacking his wife and child.

These reporting gaps need to be closed. The registry won’t work well, unless it is checked before all sales, including gun shows.

Nobody wants to see headlines for another mass shooting in America. But without changes, we can expect the worst will happen again. There’s no silver bullet for America’s gun violence epidemic. Lawmakers and concerned citizens must confront the reasons for the violence with multiple, proven changes to keep all of us safer.

Students in Florida are trying to take the lead by demanding action by adults (the nation’s leaders) and organizing a 17-minute walkout by teachers and students across the country. Our children are telling us that’s it’s time for action. That requires discussion, debate and results. The changes might have to be made in steps, but they are necessary.

Our nation can’t afford another Parkland.