Where do we begin?
In the wake of an appalling weekend in America — with 22 people gunned down in El Paso, Texas, and nine more shot dead in Dayton, Ohio — we begin, apparently, by going through the familiar motions. Politicians send their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. Other politicians demand yet again for tougher gun-control laws like banning assault weapons. Then, staunch defenders of gun-owner rights declare that it’s too soon to discuss such issues and that bringing them up after the grievous tragedy in (fill in the latest city) is a ghoulish act of political opportunism.
Well, if it IS too soon to talk about the latest mass shooting, let’s talk instead about the next one. (Admittedly, this was tough to do after El Paso on Saturday morning, since Dayton happened just hours later.)
How are we going to protect innocent people in “soft target” places such as stores, schools and churches — practically anywhere people congregate for any reason?
Where do we find all the “good guys with guns” we keep hearing about? And by this, we don’t mean the police, who, by all accounts, did a tremendous job in their responses at El Paso and Dayton this past weekend. In both instances, they wasted little time in confronting the attackers; in Dayton, the shooter was stopped after about 30 seconds, but the awful damage was already done. (The attackers ALWAYS have the element of surprise working for them.) Instead, we refer to the notion that an armed citizenry will halt these attacks. Texas is an open-carry state, and there were no doubt people who were at that Walmart who were carrying weapons. In fact, one such man said in an interview he was more concerned with getting his kids to safety than he was about confronting a gunman. The stress of these situations is extraordinary for law enforcement; what would it be like for ordinary, armed or unarmed citizens?
What can lawmakers do to proactively confront the epidemic of gun violence in this country? By any measure, laws that facilitate greater gun proliferation aren’t working.
Certainly, there are numerous motivations behind the shootings that have become a grim part of our modern life. Politicians mention these reasons all the time: mental illness, video games, childhood medication, the lack of prayer in schools, Muslim radicalization and, now, white nationalism. Without question, most of these issues should not be dismissed, although why, for instance, video games and mental illness affect Americans in such a murderous manner while other nations do not struggle with it nearly to this extent is never explained. There is a common thread that slithers through all these reasons. That commonality might be a good thing to investigate.
It’s been argued that the gun debate was lost seven years ago after the massacre at Sandy Hook in Connecticut. The theory states that, if the slaughter of 20 little kids in a school couldn’t motivate our lawmakers to act, then nothing ever will. Perhaps we have no soul to move anymore.
But we don’t believe that, and we can’t accept it.
America is the only country in the world where mass shootings happen on a regular basis. (According to USA Today, the El Paso slaughter was considered the 250th mass shooting in the U.S. — meaning 250 incidents in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the perpetrator — in the first 215 days of the year.) So, what are we doing wrong? What eludes us that the rest of the world has already figured out?
When will our tears, our wounds, our dead, our “thoughts and prayers,” our scars, our nightmares, our haunted memories finally produce a productive response to an intolerable climate of murder?
Where do we begin?
Or more specifically, where on earth does it all end?
That’s what we as a nation have to decide. And the longer we procrastinate, more people who otherwise should be alive are going to be slaughtered. It’s as simple as that.