Vox will never be confused with a middle-of-the-road political site. It’s non-apologetically Leftist and revels in that reality.
So imagine my surprise when I found an article where they seem willing to discuss ways to combat violence other than gun control. Seriously, I was floored.
So why isn’t the federal government doing anything about it?
It’s a fair question, and a fair battle to wage in the halls of Congress and the court of public opinion. But it’s also worth asking: If gun control of the scale we need isn’t happening, what non-gun control measures could help as well?
Several programs are at least worthy of consideration. Summer jobs programs for teens reduce mortality by 18 to 20 percent among participants. This effect is driven by a reduction in young men killed by homicide or suicide. Cognitive behavioral therapy for at-risk young men lowers violent crime arrests by 45 to 50 percent for participants. Access to Medicaid in early childhood decreases suicide by 10 to 15 percent later in life. Mandating that health insurance cover mental health benefits at parity reduces the suicide rate by 5 percent. Access to antidepressants also reduces suicide rates: An increase in antidepressant sales equivalent to one pill per capita reduced suicide by 5 percent.
In addition, repealing duty-to-warn laws for mental health providers — which require that they report a patient’s violent threats, perhaps causing patients to be less honest —could reduce teen suicides by 8 percent and decrease homicides by 5 percent. Repealing juvenile curfews could lower urban gunfire by two-thirds [during the hours affected]. And if the goal is to reduce mortality in general—not just gun deaths—then there are many more options policymakers should consider.
In making the case for these non-gun control ideas, Doleac argues that the fixation on gun control might be distracting advocates from presumably more tractable alternatives. “The significant time and money required to pass gun regulations — not to mention the time and money needed to enforce such laws through policing and incarceration — could be spent advocating for and implementing other programs,” Doleac argues.
I’m not so sure that’s right. For one thing, many of the non-gun control programs that reduce crime and mortality are also politically controversial. Summer jobs programs, mental health care for “at-risk young men,” and Medicaid/antidepressant drug coverage all cost money, and funding for health programs is a topic of live political debate. The number one issue of the 2018 midterm elections, based on ad buys, was health care, not guns. It might not be as hard to get these initiatives passed as it would be to pass gun laws that saved the same number of lives, but my guess is that the two are close.
Now, the author isn’t wrong that all of those things would be a political fight in and of themselves.
But I also have to ask just why in the hell is it the government’s responsibility to provide all of this? I don’t have an issue with summer jobs programs or with increased mental health treatment. I have an issue with my tax dollars going toward those things since they’re not the government’s duty.
Nothing is stopping private entities from doing these things right here and now. Nothing is stopping the do-gooders out there from working with private funding to create those programs right here and now.
Hell, I’ll do everything I can to support those private initiatives. If you’re starting one, hit me up and I’ll see what I can do to help. Seriously.
Where the disconnect falls in is that many of these people think that for something to be done, the government has to be the one to do it. It’s the same brand of authoritarianism that leads people to think that gun control needs to happen.
Unfortunately for them, precisely one of those suggestions requires the government, and that’s removing the duty to report law for mental health providers. Frankly, while I understand why the law is in place and what it does, I’m at least open to having that conversation. Show me that it won’t endanger people’s lives and I’m on board.
If you’re so convinced this will help, then why are you waiting for the government to do it in the first place?