Reducing Gun Crime...Without Gun Control
Ever since the Colorado shooting happened, my alternate-history forum has been blowing up with arguments about gun control. As you all may well know, I am a strong supporter of gun rights and I have a sneaking suspicion for many gun-control supporters it's more of a culture war issue than a public policy issue.
However, even though mass shootings like Colorado, Virginia Tech, and Columbine are massive statistical outliers and violent crime has actually been going down, tragedies like this are often preventable. So here're some proposals to reduce gun crime in general (some of which would also address mass shootings as well) that do not involve infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
*Drastically increase the penalties for the use of a firearm in a crime. Efforts like this bill in New York, for example. It's true that criminals who actually go through with a crime don't expect to be caught, but this might provide additional deterrence that would dissuade the weaker and less-confident ones from using guns in whatever evil deed they set out to do.
*Drastically increase the penalties for "straw purchases," the buying of guns on behalf of those who cannot buy them legally. The Columbine shooters got their weapons from older friends, who received little if any punishment for their complicity, while this article states the punishments for straw purchases are rarely severe. In addition to stealing, this is how many criminals acquire guns. Gun ownership is an inalienable right, but with rights come responsibilities.
*Increase funding and/or tweak the laws for the "keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill" mechanisms that should have stopped the Virginia Tech shooting, since Cho should not have been able to buy a gun in the first place.
*Legalize marijuana. Selling drugs is a massive money-maker for criminal gangs who wage gun battles with one another, and marijuana is the most abused drug in the United States. Furthermore, marijuana is a "gateway drug" because the same people selling weed are also selling other types of drugs. If people who want to smoke weed can buy it at the Wal Mart along with cigarettes and beer, they're not going to meeting dealers in back alleys who might also offer them cocaine, LSD, etc. or cut the weed with other drugs in an attempt to get their customers hooked on something else. This would reduce the drug-using population further.
(Other drugs could be legalized as well, but it would be best to start with marijuana first because it's less harmful than the others and its banning was for especially idiotic reasons.)
*Increase funding for mental-health treatment. Historically private citizens had much greater access to firepower than they do today--one example being cannon on privately-owned ships, for defense against pirates and the like--but I've never read about someone going on a bender and shelling Boston Harbor. What changed? Probably how mental illness was dealt with. I'm not suggesting bringing back scary-abusive insane asylums, people getting committed by family trying to steal their money or by those annoyed by their political views, etc., but the current regime needs work. The Tuscon and Virginia Tech shooters were mentally ill, for example, while the Colorado shooter appears to be as well.