Finley: Stop fighting, start doing

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

The angry cry to “Do Something!” in response to the Valentine’s Day school massacre in Florida is ringing across the country.

But do what? Everyone seems to have an idea, a lot of them based on misinformation and misplaced expectations. But what we’re mostly doing is dividing into partisan camps and hurling accusations at each other.

Fighting over assault weapons bans, trying to paint Donald Trump and Republicans and the National Rifle Association with the blood of the Florida children, trashing the Second Amendment — none of that will get us anywhere.

But some reasonable and possibly effective ideas are emerging, and it’s from them that U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Fred Upton, R-Kalamazoo, hope to find the makings for legislation that might actually have an impact.

The two Michigan members of the House’s Problem Solvers caucus —24 Democrats and 24 Republicans looking for middle ground on a variety of issues — are out this week talking with law enforcement officials, educators, gun control advocates and gun control opponents, mental health experts and anyone else with an idea about how to end mass shootings, particularly those in schools.

Their goal is to come up with legislation and put it before Congress before the planned March 26 student march on Washington inspired by the survivors of the Florida attack.

“I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans and Democrats, and they’re very encouraged about getting something done,” Upton says. “There’s room to do better, and we can do it without infringing on the Second Amendment.”

Dingell says the effort will not include gun bans, which have little hope of passing and have had no impact in the past. But they will seek laws that have some real teeth.

“We’re not going to get it done if it’s not bipartisan,” she says. “We all want to do something, but what?”

That’s the key question. If the group can stay together and sidestep the most divisive issues, a number of measures might help head-off mass shootings.

Both Upton and Dingell are intrigued by the idea of a 1-800 nationwide hotline to allow friends and relatives to report someone whom they believe is a danger to themselves or others. The hotline must be accompanied by a streamlined legal process for removing weapons from the unstable individual.

Nearly every firearm sold in the United States comes with a federal background check, contrary to the myth that the federal law doesn’t apply in Florida and some other states. But the current system is underfunded and has too many gaps. The federal database must be kept current, and it must include information on domestic assaults, school suspensions and military infractions.

Using technology such as fingerprint or retinal recognition to better secure guns and prevent stolen weapons from being fired is also a worthy step. As is banning the bump stocks that turn semi-automatic rifles into automatics, and limiting the capacity of ammunition clips. Doing so would render the AR and AK weapons no more deadly than ordinary hunting rifles.

Improving school security practices, raising the gun purchase age to 21 and building a mental health system responsive to the pressures of a modern society are all areas where agreement should be found.

And they could actually make a difference.

The Dingell/Upton consensus building approach is a whole lot more productive than the finger pointing and name calling that has become our typical exercise following a slaughter of our fellow citizens.

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.