Last week, it was a newsroom in Annapolis, Md. About a month ago, it was Santa Fe High School in Texas. And in February, it was a high school in Parkland, Fla. Regardless of our politics, there couldn’t be any stronger warning sign that something is going wrong in our country than the prevalence of mass shootings.
So we were more than a little encouraged recently when folks from the Texas-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation stopped by to talk about an initiative they’ve launched to do something about this problem. What stands out about the Arnold Foundation’s work is that it attempts to bridge the political divide that stymies discussion. The foundation focuses on taking the first crucial step of gathering information before offering policy prescriptions.
Over the next five years, the foundation has pledged to spend $20 million on research into gun violence and efforts to encourage others to engage in such research. And it hopes to raise an additional $30 million in private funds.
In the long run, the foundation’s goal is more ambitious. It hopes to spark a massive private and government research effort. The aim, of course, is to draw the federal government into the effort. That would provide substantial dollars as well as talented researchers.
If this sounds like so many previous efforts, it’s not. In this case, the Arnold Foundation is reaching out to organizations that support gun rights — including the National Rifle Association — and is starting from the premise that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership in America. Those working on this initiative hope that the Heller decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual right to own guns, can be used to change the national narrative so gun enthusiasts can feel empowered to work with others to find new ways to reduce gun violence.
Yet there is substantial opposition to using federal dollars for such research out of fear that it would be used to advocate for a one-sided political agenda. There may be no way to allay such fears, other than to conduct research that demonstrates there are many ways to save lives without violating individual rights. And to that end, we’re encouraged to see the Arnold Foundation’s efforts and look forward to seeing the fruits of this initiative.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS