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What’s Next America?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Michael Popejoy
August 30, 2016

american-923875_640The title of my commentary this month is the same question that I facetiously ended my last commentary contribution. Now, I am writing after the deadly shootings in both Orlando, Florida and Dallas, Texas. Little did I know then that my rhetorical question would be answered in the wake of such deadly historical events.

It is just possible that terror has won the publically stated commitment of both public administration and public health. First, public health has advanced the concept that gun violence in the U.S. should be clearly labeled as an emerging public health crisis. Since public health officials do not have the judicial or executive power to act, it then becomes incumbent on public administration to act through policy formulation and implementation in the political environment. This is one example of critical crosswalks where public administration and public health must forge a closer collaborative partnership to accomplish public objectives.

This is also becoming an international issue. As I wrote this column, three countries have now identified the U.S. as a high risk country to visit. This is the same risk assessment our own state department awards to other high risk countries overseas. We are now members of a not so prestigious international club.

It was the intent of the founders of this Republic to make the Constitution the basis for all laws and they succeeded in making the Constitution hard to rewrite since the amendment process is complex by design. Does public health now have public administration backing and the political will of the people to make the necessary changes in the Second Amendment? Should outlawing guns be required? Are policy alternatives available that can help make us a bit safer without eliminating our constitutional right to bear arms?

In the public policy agenda setting process, the radical dramatizing events have now occurred publically that support an already existing high level of public dissatisfaction with the status quo. As this issue moves up the American Agenda for public discussion and is on its way to the necessary legislative changes that seem certain to be required, can we find a workable solution that would satisfy the various constituents while keeping terrorists out of gun stores?

American politics is often influenced by special interest groups and lobbyists. If it seems certain that legislative changes are forthcoming to satisfy public dissatisfaction with the status quo, then it should be imperative that special interest groups have a voice in the changes. That means the National Rifle Association (NRA) should get on board and help us arrive at a workable solution that protects us while preserving the Second Amendment. The NRA is not the enemy. To my knowledge, none of the shooters in the most recent horrific events were card carrying NRA members. So, the enemy is out there. It is not here among the peaceful nonviolent members of society.

I am sure my readers want me to offer a solution to this grave public problem. But I cannot do that. No one mind, not even one as good as mine, can offer a solution that would ensure public safety while preserving our constitutionally protected freedoms. However, public minds in public debate may do collectively, just that thing.

A policy merely banning guns will not keep guns out of the hands of terrorists or everyday murderers who have always been among us. However, I am certain with new public policies formulated and implemented by the public policy process, we can make it tougher for these villains to get guns.

Yet, as new public policies aimed at providing higher levels of safety are implemented, what level of safety is practical? Can any government realistically promise the governed absolute safety or is a relative increase in safety the best we can achieve? So again, at the risk of having it gravely answered, I ask the question: what’s next America?

Author: Michael W. Popejoy, M.B.A., Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., FRSPH is cross trained with his Ph.D. in public administration and an M.P.H. in public health from a CEPH accredited school of public health. He also teaches both graduate public administration and graduate public health. Email: [email protected].

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One Response to What’s Next America?

  1. Lisa Perschke Reply

    August 30, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    It is not the gun that we should outlaw, but the mental health care that this country doesn’t provide to those mentally ill individuals that do such shootings.

    If this country could provide the much needed mental health care that is needed, as well as the support and care, then there wouldn’t be such violence.

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