This blog post is cross-posted from Community Psychology, the Society for Community Research and Action’s blog. SCRA is Division 27 of the American Psychological Association.
By Christopher Corbett, MA (APA Division 27 Member)
As the nation reels from another mass shooting that has killed at least 17 people and injured at least 15 more (Everytown Research, 2018), we can only face up to the harsh reality as to how preventable this shooting was–and also how culpable as a society we all are. Whether through obstruction, such as by the Congress who includes the “Dickey Amendment” every year in spending bills to prohibit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting gun violence research (Radelat, 2018), or by neglect, we, the citizenry, fail to demand reasonable firearm restrictions– there is plenty of guilt to go around. We can take action now to prevent such future tragedies.
Points of Intervention
While many points of intervention exist, given our national elected leaders’ incapacity, or refusal, to work together, intervention at state level has immediate prospect of success. Real progress has already been achieved by several states to impose “red flag” laws that allow suspending rights to gun ownership where a significant risk to self or others is shown. For example, five states have such legislation: Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, Indiana, and California (Radelat, 2018). This is not done thoughtlessly but rather with significant protection of due process rights of individuals by its temporary nature and with right to a hearing (Everytown Research, 2018). Moreover, state level intervention is ideal as all citizens can act immediately to contact their local legislators whether in person, by letter or electronically. Further, some responsible legislators have proven the complex issues can be practically resolved, while balancing the rights of individuals against greater societal interests. Five states have already proven that such legislation can be drafted, approved and signed into law (Radelat 2018).
In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy the State of Connecticut took aggressive and prompt action becoming the first to pass a “red flag” law (Radelat 2018). Its provisions are thorough, address and balance all constituent issues while ensuring protection of the public. The full wording of the legislation can be found at: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/pub/chap_529.htm#sec_29-38c.
Connecticut, after the Sandy Hook tragedy, possessed the political will to develop thorough and effective legislation. Its legislation appears model and is an excellent starting point for devising state by state interventions. As its provisions demonstrate, the law effectively balances individual rights with the rights of the citizenry.
Model legislation provides great opportunity for Community Psychologists to intervene. It falls well within the skills of all bachelors’, masters’, and doctoral degree levels. To develop or propose model legislation, one starting point is to first, conduct legislative bill analysis (Corbett 2013) and secondly, apply your CP values and principles (Corbett 2015). This is clearly a fitting issue for CPs to take on now, especially in the wake of the Parkland, Florida tragedy, by intervening at the state level to prevent gun violence– given the opportunities presented by the Model legislation from Connecticut as well as the four other states that have successfully implemented “red flag” legislation.
Connecticut Legislation (2017). Seizure of firearms and ammunition from person posing risk. Section 29-38c. Accessed from www.cga.gov.
Corbett, C.J. (2015). Model legislation: Public Policy 501. Workshop presented at SCRA’s Biennial Conference held in Lowell, Mass. Accessed from http://scra27.org/files/8914/4820/9070/Public_Policy_501_-_Model_Legislation_by_Chris_Corbett_SCRA_Biennial_2015.pdf .
Corbett, C. J. (2013). Legislative bill analysis: Public Policy 401. Workshop presented at SCRA’s 2013 Biennial Conference held in Miami, Fla. Accessed from http://scra27.org/files/2613/8784/7048/Implementing_Core_Competency_15.pdf.
Everytown Research (2018, February 15). Red flag laws: Helping prevent mass shootings. Accessed from https://everytownresearch.org.
Radelat, A. (2018, February 16). School massacre provokes calls for ‘red flag’ laws like one CT pioneered. Accessed from https://ctmirror.org/2018/02/16/school-massacre-provokes-calls-for-red-flag-laws-like-one-ct-pioneered/.
Christopher Corbett, MA, Community Psychology, is a former government regulator employed in the regulation of N.Y. State’s gas and electric utilities and author of “Accountability and Ethics in Nonprofit Organizations”, Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy and Governance (2018, Springer International Publishing).