Opinion | Tony Jones: A layered approach to address gun violence

In the Information Technology industry, in terms of securing networks, there is the concept of security in layers. When it comes to network security there is no silver bullet, no one technology that will prevent intrusions from happening. 

In-depth security requires multiple layers. This starts at the perimeter, where firewalls protect networks from external threats. The next layer is an internal scanning system used to detect and stop intruders that may have already breached the firewalls and penetrated the network. The next line of defense is anti-virus software that stops the execution of malware. Lastly, educating computer users about the techniques that bad guys use and how to spot things like phishing attempts is critical to overall security.

We should apply this security in layers methodology to the gun violence that plagues our country. This approach will require multiple laws, none of which alone can stop the problem, but which, when applied cumulatively, can be effective in reducing gun violence. If there were a silver bullet for this issue, it would be to confiscate all guns. But given the number of weapons in our country, the likelihood of us ever being able to do that is nil. And to be clear, I’m not advocating for that. I believe that the vast majority of gun owners are not a danger to society and that demonizing all gun owners as potential mass murderers or as people who don’t care that innocents are being slaughtered only serves to widen the divide we must cross in order to address this problem.

Conservative talking points on gun violence include advocating for hardening of facilities to prevent entry by a gunman. A well-funded and properly implemented measure around this would be the equivalent of securing network perimeters with firewalls, but I worry that this is mostly an attempt at obfuscation by those who propose it.

My skepticism about conservatives suggesting this possibility stems from the fact that a policy like this seems contrary to conservative principles. It would require raising taxes to pay for the hardening of government buildings and schools, and enforcement in the private sector would require mandating how businesses design their physical spaces and that they fund these modifications. It’s curious that folks who were largely unwilling to mandate that masks be worn inside businesses to protect the public health would be OK with forcing businesses to implement such draconian measures.

Similarly, addressing another conservative talking point, that there are evil people amongst us and there’s nothing we can do about it, also seems like obfuscation. Removing the spiritual spin on this, what they’re talking about is mentally ill people who we need to identify and treat before they cause harm. This too is going to require funding, increased funding for our mental health systems and increased surveillance of our population. This layer of security, the equivalent of internal scanning, requires that we open our pocketbooks wider to address this concern, so hopefully the conservatives are sincere in suggesting this as an area that needs to be addressed.

Additional layers in security will include national laws modeled on existing state laws that are already proving effective, if imperfect. This includes red flag laws to temporarily confiscate guns from those who may present danger to themselves or others, expanded background checks, requiring that gun owners secure their weapons, and outlawing high-capacity magazines. Reimposing the ban on assault rifles would reduce these weapons of mass destruction in our society while imposing no hardship on anyone other than the companies who are getting rich manufacturing them. 

Education will be critical for this effort as well. This includes training law enforcement agencies, large and small, on incident response and ensuring that the public at large understands the warning signs that often precede gun violence. Recognizing these signs and being willing to speak out when they are detected is a crucial component in the success of red flag laws. 

We’ll never be able to rest on our laurels in addressing this challenge. It will require constant vigilance and the willingness to layer on more protections as the need arises. Politicians need to live up to their expressed concern for the lives of others, reject NRA donations so they can remain independent, and be willing to work across the aisle with a true sense of collaboration and compromise for the good of the entire country. 

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