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Solutions to Curbing Mass Shootings

On a Monday morning in late March three nine year-olds and three adults were gunned down by a shooter who opened fire at the Covenant Presbyterian church school in Nashville, Tennessee.

The children were students; the adults were staff members. One little girl, Hallie, was the daughter of the lead pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which is connected to the school.

The shooter, Audrey Elizabeth Hale, used two AR-15 type weapons and a handgun. Hale had been receiving treatment for “an emotional disorder” and had legally purchased seven weapons from five local gun stores. Hale’s motive was not immediately clear.

The massacre was just the latest in a chain of shootings that just over the last year have left dozens dead and injured in attacks in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California; Chesapeake, Virginia, Colorado Springs, Highland Park, Illinois, Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York among other places.

As in Nashville, researchers found that shooters tended to alarm people around them, often signaling their plan in advance. Generally, they purchased their weapons legally.

After the Nashville tragedy, the chaplain of the U.S. Senate urged lawmakers to “move beyond thoughts and prayers.” President Biden said he had exhausted his executive powers to deal with guns and said Congress should pass an assault weapons ban, saying “there’s a moral price to pay for inaction.”

But Capitol Hill lawmakers indicated there was little support for that legislation. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, reiterated their opposition to actions that would restrict access to guns, saying that mental health issues are the root cause of the gun violence problem in America.

That’s why today Mark Bello and I present clinical psychologist Emily Bashah and political expert Paul Johnson, former mayor of Phoenix, Arizona. They are co-authors of Addictive Ideologies: Finding Meaning and Agency When Politics Fail You.

Dr. Bashah frequently serves as an expert witness in court and has worked on high-profile cases covering issues of domestic terrorism and capital offenses. Johnson was the youngest mayor of Phoenix when he was elected at age 30. He was sued by the NRA for implementing common sense gun laws, and in this episode, Johnson lays out a three-part approach that he believes is politically feasible and could dramatically reduce mass shootings and enhance school safety for children.

Here are questions we posed to Dr. Bashah and Johnson:

1. – What will it take for this country to take meaningful action to protect the lives of innocent people from mass shootings such as this tragic event in Nashville?

2. – Military-style weapons like the AR-15 often are used in these shootings and about one in 10 Americans own such a gun. What is the attraction to these weapons? Should they be banned?

Note: A Washington Post survey found that AR-15 owners come from red, blue and purple states, are significantly more likely to be White, male and between the ages 40 and 65. They’re also more likely to have higher incomes, to have served in the military and to be Republican. AR-15 owners are more likely to live in states former president Donald Trump won in 2020 than adults overall.

3.– What are red flag gun laws and why are they important in curbing gun violence? Tennessee two years ago failed to pass such a law that could have stopped the Nashville shooter who was known to be suicidal. Shouldn’t there be a national red flag law?

4. – What are risk assessments and how can they be implemented?

5. – What can communities do to help people who are at risk of committing such violent acts?

6. – Dr. Bashah, why is treating ideological extremism as an addiction important in stopping mass murders?

7. – Paul, when you were mayor of Phoenix, you ran into political trouble because of your efforts regarding guns. What happened? Why is it that so many politicians are afraid to act even in the face of these tragic events, which never seem to stop?

8. – What are some ways people can deal with friends or loved ones who have fallen into to the trap of addictive ideologies?

9. – How can Americans be optimistic when surrounded by all of the negative bias that exists today, and why is this optimism important?

10. – How about the role of social media and the news media with respect to political divisions that exist today? What needs to be done? Are further restrictions on social media needed?

11. – As a former mayor and politician, Paul, what is your advice to those lawmakers who are beholden to the NRA and seemingly are afraid to act?

Listen to the episode:

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