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Once more, with outrage

SoVaNow.com / October 04, 2017
Maybe someone a lot smarter than me can answer the question: How much more of this carnage do we have to take?

Monday’s slaughter of 58 innocent people in Las Vegas by an apparent lone wolf, an outwardly weatlhy white guy with no known grudges or political agenda, is so random, so senseless, that it practically stands in mockery of the arguments that normally ensue after mass gun attacks in America. The blame avoidance game is sadly familiar. Who should we fear most: ISIS followers, right-wing domestic terrorists, left-wing domestic terrorists, or what? After so many massacres of all stripes, a better question might be why we should even bother to keep score in this implied competition. What can we do to fix America’s ailing mental health care system? Nothing that would have mattered this time. Surely, Stephen Craig Paddock had issues that caused him to rain death over a crowd of 22,000 people at a country music concert, but no one seems to have had an inkling beforehand of what those issues could be, and dead shooters tell no secrets. Is this a problem of America failing to turn our eyes toward God and stand up to evil? People who say stuff like this after sickening tragedies, politicians especially, are just trying to snuff out a real discussion of the problem. Cut-and-dried solutions to the crisis of American gun violence may be unrealistic, but helpful steps are not.

The one constant in this ever-miserable recurrence of mass murder in America is the guns. Always the guns. So now we’re finally at the point of seeing people mowed down by machine gun fire. (Or the functional equivalent of automatic weaponry.) It’s days like Monday when we Americans learn the most amazing things about our daily life, such as the fact there are nearly 500,000 fully automatic firearms floating around the country that are registered in an ATF database. It’ll be interesting to see if any of Stephen Craig Paddock’s two dozen-some weapons turn up in searches for illicit guns. As if it would really matter. It turns out that Nevada has very lax restrictions on souped-up firearms — no hunter needs these guns for any legitimate purpose— and it’s not terribly difficult at any rate to modify semi-automatic rifles to mimic the effect of rapid continuous fire. So, to recap: 59 dead, with more fatalities possible. More than 500 wounded. A nation and a world shocked by what has just happened (again).

How many people must die in a single mass shooting before we reject the false narratives that stand in the way of reasonable gun safety laws? How many more people must die before we muster the will to push back against this madness? One hundred? Five hundred? Is any death toll adequate to the task?

How long before politicians like this are hounded from office?

South Boston News

Yep, that was from a Ted Cruz fundraiser during last year’s presidential campaign. Ted’s not so funny anymore, not that he ever was.

I don’t listen much to country music (there are some artists I like, but they’re either geezers like me or dead) and I wasn’t familiar with the Josh Abbott Band before learning they were among the performers Sunday night in Las Vegas. Yet suddenly and sadly, country music artists are in a unique position to testify to the violent gun-fueled madness that exists on the fringes of American life — and which must be countered and controlled to the fullest extent possible. In a widely shared message, the group’s lead guitarist, Caleb Keeter, speaks truth to those with minds still open to reality.

You may have read Keeter’s words elsewhere, but they bear repeating everywhere:

I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with CHL [Concealed Handgun] licenses, and legal firearms on the bus.

They were useless.

We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think we were part of the massacre and shoot us. A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of fire power.

Enough is enough ….

We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it. We are unbelievably fortunate to not be among the number of victims killed or seriously wounded by this maniac.

It really shouldn’t take personal encounters with gun violence to cause a person to support action to stave off the next slaughter, but Keeter’s message is heartfelt and sincere and everyone should welcome his conversion on the issue. It takes guts for people to admit when they’re wrong. It’ll take even more guts to set this situation aright.

I know. Nothing ever gets done in America, so let’s all throw up our hands and just wait around for the next massacre. If you believe that, I guess there truly is nothing else that you can add other than thoughts and prayers for the victims. And prayers are certainly always welcome: they assuage the conscience, calm the spirit and point the way to the fulfillment of our better natures.

Save lives? Plainly that requires something else.

***

From Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia in the Nov. 7 election, in the aftermath of the shooting: “Until I do not have any more breath in my lungs, I will stand up and tell people that we do not need assault weapons on our streets.”

From Ed Gillespie, Republican candidate for Governor, at an event covered by The Washington Post on Monday: Gillespie “asked for a moment of silence, later telling reporters that it was too soon to discuss policy.”

Your call, Virginia.

***

Vox.com posted a helpful article in the immediate aftermath of the Vegas shooting, “America’s gun problem, explained,” by German Lopez. A few snippets:

» “No other developed country in the world has anywhere near the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate as Canada, more than seven times as Sweden, and nearly 16 times as Germany, according to UN data compiled by the Guardian. (These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rate, which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations.)

» “According to Pew Research Center surveys, most people in the US support background checks, bans on assault-style weapons, bans on high-capacity ammunition clips, bans on online sales of ammunition, and a federal database to track gun sales.

» “Depending on which definition of mass shooting one uses, there are anywhere from a dozen to a few hundred mass shootings in the US each year …. Yet other, less-covered kinds of gun violence kill far more Americans than even these mass shootings. Under the broadest definition of mass shooting, these incidents killed about 500 Americans in 2013. That represents just a fraction of total gun homicides: more than 11,200 that year. And firearm suicides killed even more: nearly 21,200 Americans.

» “Even the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., — in which a gunman killed 20 young children, six school personnel, and himself — catalyzed no significant change at the federal level and most states. Since then, there have been, by some estimates, more than 1,300 mass shootings. And there is every reason to believe there will be more to come.”

The full piece is very much worth the read.





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