A familiar feeling of sadness and helplessness accompanies each mass shooting in America, as suggestions about how to address the problem are bandied about anew in spite of the truth people don't like to reveal: no one has the answers. Is it a mental health issue? A gun control issue? Would enhanced background checks work? Bans on some types of weapons? Better veterans services, different medications, policing of social media?
They're all suggested, debated, argued over, and ultimately found lacking as a small community in Texas buries 26 of her own. And Americans grow a little more accustomed to the darkness.
But in a bright spot last night, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) in an interview with Shannon Bream on Fox News offered what could, at least, represent a first step: legal consequences for lying on background checks.
"This should have been stopped beforehand," Cruz said of the Texas shooting in Sutherland Springs. "Under federal law, it was illegal for this individual to purchase a firearm."
Cruz places the blame for the Air Force's failure to report the shooter's conviction for domestic abuse to federal authorities squarely on the Obama administration, saying: "The Obama administration didn't report those convictions to the NCIS database."
Admittedly, it's a bit of a stretch to blame the Obama administration for a single bureaucratic foul-up simply because it led to such a horrific act and a weary people need someone to blame for these senseless things. But Cruz is making a really good, important, two-fold point. 1) That bureaucratic problems such as the one that let the Texas shooter buy a weapon despite his criminal conviction are endemic and tied to leadership; and 2) crimes such as lying on background check forms — which the Texas shooter did — MUST BE prosecuted.
And it extends beyond a few domestic terrorists seeking revenge such as the Sutherland Springs shooter.
"In 2010, 48,000 felons & fugitives…illegally tried to purchase guns, [the Obama administration] prosecuted only 44 of them," Cruz said.
What Cruz is speaking to is, of course, using the threat of legal consequence as a way to deter these criminals from ever trying to go through legal channels to buy guns, forcing them to look elsewhere to purchase weapons. And that elsewhere — black-market, illicit gun sales — can be targeted by law enforcement and carry far harsher punishment.
Using the threat of punishment for a crime by actually following through on prosecution to deter criminal behavior? Novel idea.