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The cold, cold comfort coming out of Newtown is that at least the country seems a little more ready and willing to address the question of (gun) violence.  It's a national dialogue that's been a long time coming; now that we have this tremendous opportunity, what should we do with it?

One approach, obviously, is to focus on guns.  DiFi is waiting and ready to introduce an assault weapons ban once Congress returns.  But what about other solutions?  I say we focus instead on remedying the social ills that lead people to commit acts of (gun) violence.  This is what I mean by "solutions we can all agree on."  Let's take this golden opportunity to do a full-court press for the progressive policy solutions we all love and want:  properly funded education, a strong social safety net, e.g. anti-poverty measures, and providing for mental wellness.

Lest anyone dismiss the mental health question as a dastardly NRA-driven smokescreen, I present to you Baculum King's most excellent diary from this weekend, in which he points out that gun tech hasn't changed so much as other social factors have:

somehow, about 25 years ago, a few people started carrying them into schools and theaters and malls and such and shooting the place up.

What changed a quarter-century ago?? Some point to violent (and ultra-violent) video games, and I don't doubt they can have a desensitizing effect. Some point to the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, and the instant infamy gained by every perpetrator of one of these outrages, and I suppose that in some warped minds any attention beats none. But I strongly suspect there is a larger factor at work.

25 years ago is roughly when we started dumping psychotropic drugs into adolescent boys in industrial quantities, often for minor behavioral issues that for hundreds of generations were corrected successfully by a little "concentrated attention". Dr. Gary G. Kohls looked into this intently after the so-called "Batman" shootings in Colorado, and his findings were startling

Effective reforms of our health care system, making it more responsive to the needs of people seeking help, would make a huge difference in these "snap" killings.  I don't want to bog this diary down too badly on the mental health question, but I do submit that drugs are easy and too often prescribed when counseling would suffice.  But counseling through problems takes time, and nobody really makes any money on it, so it's not the favored course of treatment.  Thankfully, PPACA takes some steps to remedy the situation, but they are still years down the road.  In the meantime, we get nonsense like this:
Although most insurance plans make 20 to 30 annual mental health visits available in their contracts with employers, they may deny coverage after approximately eight to 10 visits due to their determination of "medical necessity." The companies typically ask for an outpatient treatment report, or OTR, after several visits.

"If we state on the OTR that the patient is making progress, the company may deny further payment because the patient is getting better and treatment is no longer a 'medical necessity.' On the other hand, if we report that the patient is making little progress, the company often denies additional treatment because it doesn't seem to be doing any good," says Goldberg. The concept of "medical necessity" is particularly vexing for patients and therapists because health insurance companies can define it any way they like, and the definition often changes from year to year.

The same arguments apply to another major driver of (gun) violence, poverty.  Studies linking the two exist in spades.  Poverty begets despair; despair begets (gun) violence.  When people feel empowered, heard, and secure, they don't resort to desperate measures so much.

Education is another policy tool that is exceedingly important in moving beyond (gun) violence. Education provides inspiration and hope.  Knowledge is power.  It's also true that there is a direct and well established relationship between education and chilbearing:  more educated women have fewer children, and start later.  All of these aspects of education work to reduce poverty, which in turn reduces (gun) violence.

So instead of engaging a battle royale over gun control, why don't we take this opportunity to demand better social policy that would address the issue ?  Sure, the GOP will do their usual "Socialism!" routine, but really, it's already played out.  So we demand the proper enforcement of already existing laws, better education, a stronger safety net, and mental wellness as a health policy priority.  And what is the GOP going to do, besides sadface?

The optics (and politics) are atrocious-to-impossible for the GOP.  This is one tough nut for the them to crack.  How on earth can they come out against proper enforcement of existing laws? They're all but forced to fund the necessary agencies/functions.

It's also true that focusing on social issues and not guns as the solution would not rile up the crazies, except the garden variety crazy that is the modern-day GOP when it comes to taking care of people.  The NRA would likely at least stay quiet, since they'd have no obvious dog in the fight, and I'm sure even some of them would regard less poverty and more education as good things.  Even conservative groups like the Catholic Bishops who denounced the Ryan Budget support anti-poverty programs.  

Such proposals wouldn't meet any more resistance than they do now, basically.  Only, when presented as a solution to gun violence, it becomes really hard for anyone to argue against, especially if groups like the NRA aren't marshaling support and distorting the debate through their lobbying efforts.  

And yes, we all know conservatives will always gnash and wail about any kind of spending to benefit the less fortunate.  But when presented as a solution to something that EVERYONE except the NRA agrees is a problem, the debate takes on a completely different dimension, one in which blanket obstruction for its own sake is not going to fly.  Imagine, if you will:

Dems to GOP:  You don't want to do gun legislation?  Fine.  Then let's attack a huge driver of (gun) violence, poverty, and expand UI, safety net, and education funding.  Oh you don't want that, either?  Then what do you suggest?

* crickets *

The GOP is never going to stick it to the NRA, so what solution could they possibly have to counter-propose?  I contend that they would pay a hefty price for not doing something at this point.  And if the Dems are going to provide the solution, i maintain it should be an approach that most can agree on.  

What say you?


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