“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
For Americans in the 21st Century, it can seem at times that we are stuck in an endless loop of tragedy, fueled by the sickness and hate that has found such a hold in America. We’ve become numb to mass shootings as the latest carnage is soon overshadowed by the next bloodletting in some other hapless community. The bodies from the racist attack in Buffalo hadn’t even been buried when the next gunman opened fire in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 young children and two adults. The sorrow that such acts inflicts on the families is nearly bottomless.
In every case, the excuses for inaction begin nearly as soon as the gunfire is silenced. There is no question that there are multiple factors that play into every mass shooting. But most of those same factors, whether mental illness, bullying, or radicalization on the Internet, are factors experienced in every country. America is the only country in the world where this happens routinely, and it’s because we are awash in guns designed to kill large numbers of people.
We have no fear of guns, in general, here at the newspaper. Most of us have guns at home and we certainly have no desire or expectation that they will be taken away by the government. Claims that any sensible regulations on access to guns and related paraphernalia represent a slippery slope toward confiscation are scare tactics used by extremists who are, quite simply, unmoved by the carnage that has become virtually emblematic of America in recent years.
The two most recent mass shootings were similar to many, if not most, that we’ve experienced in the past. The shooters were young males who were able to buy assault weapons, large-capacity magazines, body armor, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at a moment’s notice. They could do so because, and only because, this is America and we are governed by a political system that is beholden to the most radical voices on the issue of guns.
Gun regulations are perfectly constitutional, which is why you can’t own a machine gun or a nuclear bomb, even in America. The debate is over what kind of regulation can help reduce the threat of rampant gun violence.
Our most recent tragedies have put the lie to the notion that more guns are all we need to put a damper on mass shootings. In both Buffalo and Uvalde, armed and trained law enforcement officers on the scene were unable to stop the shooters from wreaking their carnage. As is often the case, the police are outgunned by young males who aren’t yet old enough to buy cough medicine or a beer in many states but who, nonetheless, have ready access to America’s deadly arsenal. They are also allowed to buy body armor that allows them to kill more innocent people.
The suggestion that we can solve the problem by arming teachers is nonsense. If trained police can’t stop these shooters, how do we expect a teacher to do it?
We do know that it is possible to stem gun violence because other countries have been successful in doing so, in every case by making it more difficult to obtain deadly firearms. We know that the 1990s assault weapons ban reduced the number of mass shootings, and that the incidence of such shootings tripled in the years since the ban expired.
We could certainly stand to know more about the ways in which gun legislation impacts gun violence, but Congress, led by the Republican Party, passed a law that has all but eliminated federally-funded research into gun violence. That’s right. We can’t even ask the questions that need to be asked, because the radicals who dictate America’s gun laws are afraid of the answers.
We should also be asking why it is that troubled 18-year-olds can legally buy body armor. In a sensible nation, the availability of such protective gear would be limited to law enforcement or those with a demonstrated need for such protection. Mass shooters now routinely use body armor to fend off attempts by law enforcement to stop them. Body armor, which has no constitutional protection whatsoever, is just another means of inflicting a higher body count, including among emergency responders.
The reality is that there are things we could do to at least slow the endless loop of gun violence in America. In the end, however, Americans simply don’t care enough to take those steps. We continue to elect political leaders who offer phony excuses, ridiculous “solutions”, or meaningless thoughts and prayers. And it all repeats itself the next time the shooting starts. And if there is one thing we know for certain about America these days, it is that the shooting will, inevitably, start again.
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