san bernardino

There are two kinds of problems: those that can’t be solved by money, and those that can.

The former group includes relationship strife, family drama, many kinds of diseases (like cancer), and the work involved with obtaining a library-level education.

The latter kind includes reducing mass shootings in America. And after San Bernardino and a 2015 that averaged more than one mass shooting a day, it’s time for Democrats to face up to that.

We’re hearing the same old platitudes, the same old arguments. We need to think outside the box. For Democrats, this means reacting to gun violence with more than a bill that suggests gun control. It means putting a lot more of their agenda on the table. For the sake of tens of thousands of lives, Democrats have to be willing to sacrifice some of their favorite parts of their budgets. I don’t like it either, but the post-Sandy Hook events proved that another round of pleading isn’t going to get it done.

Police buyback programs aren’t bad. Their efficacy is underlined by the fact that the word “buyback” doesn’t get a red underline in Microsoft Word. But what we need is a solution that’s more like police buyback times 10.

Democrats need to rally around the Second Amendment Full Enforcement Act of 2016 – let’s call it the SAFE Act.

The SAFE Act includes big tax cuts. You get a $500 tax cut if you walk into your local police department and exchange your weapon for a licensed smart gun.

You get a tax cut equal to triple the value of your firearm if you give away your weapon without asking for anything else in exchange. (Assuming the average gun is worth about $350, the average tax cut in this case will be about $1000.)

If those dollars don’t move the needle, increase them. Sure, a lot of people will keep their firearms. It’s not about absolute prevention. It’s about reducing the statistics, just as we do with drunk driving, chemicals, pool covers, etc, as Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof reminds us time and again, including yesterday.

Kristof makes excellent points: Reagan favored gun control, mental health should be addressed (the SAFE Act does not exclude other legislation), people on the terrorist watch list buying guns is an outrage, everyone in Switzerland has an arsenal and yet they don’t have our mass-shooting problem, etc.

Other columnists make other good points. Terror is terror, and in a century defined by our war on it, we should be preventing it in every way possible. We can’t bring guns on planes or into the halls of Congress; why should those places be safer spaces than our communities? The 27 word amendment reads: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The second and third words of this sacred text are “well regulated.”

Yes, all true. But money. Money could bring down the body count. War is over, if you want it. Well, not quite, John Lennon, but war would lessen significantly.

The most the SAFE Act would cost would be half of our Pentagon’s 2016 budget. It’ll actually cost less, because many will keep their guns. And yes, $270 billion or so is real money. Here’s the thing: that happens anyway. Every single plan on offer from every single candidate for the Presidency will increase the deficit. The question is not about saving our money, but what we’re getting for it.

So ask yourself: how much is a human life worth? What are our priorities?

Enough is enough.

If the Democrats somehow can’t sell a massive tax cut to Republicans or the country, then they should get ready to barter…just about everything. Let the GOP repeal and replace Obamacare, as they promise to do (I’d love to see the replacement plan). Bring in the Keystone pipeline. Privatize Social Security and Medicare. Abandon the federal minimum wage. Give the 1% some kind of preposterous tax cut and/or eliminate the estate tax. End foreign aid, as the GOP seems to demand. We have to prioritize this scourge of 30,000-plus gun deaths a year. Yes, many are suicides; the SAFE Act should reduce those more than any others.

Our grandkids are not going to forgive us for leaving them such a violent country. If they live long enough to enjoy it.

Our grandkids also won’t forgive us for leaving them a world that’s too polluted to fix, so I would take climate change legislation off the negotiating table. Certain federal funds that literally make the difference between Americans’ life and death must be maintained, like those for the critically ill and disabled, air traffic controllers, and the FDA. Planned Parenthood is a non-starter, for similar reasons.

I don’t really think the Democrats, who are in the minority anyway, should need to surrender Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, 1%-flattering tax cuts, and all that, but that’s the level of creative thinking they need to bring to the table. They have not shown any real willingness to sacrifice to bring down the body count in America, mostly because they know they can blame it on Republicans and continue to get all their favorite campaign donations. (Watching the Democrat candidates during the first debate was the first time I’d seen so many people brag about low test scores like D-minus and F – from the NRA, in their case – since I hung out in the drug-addict-filled park next to my high school.)

Greed – the greed of gun manufacturers working with the NRA – caused the problem to rise to its current, post-San Bernardino level. The opposite of greed will change the game. Yes, the price will be high – in dollars. Better that than to continue to pay it in blood.

– Daniel Smith-Rowsey