Editorial: A ‘mass shooting’ a day and yet no resolve to take action

Wednesday’s deadly shootings in San Bernadino, Calif., might complicate the argument for stricter gun control measures. If it turns out to be an act of terrorism in which jihadist influences played a role in the attack, then many will argue Americans should not be restricted in their ability to own guns and to carry them for self-defense. But gun control advocates have to stay firm in their insistence that the issue is not about denying gun ownership to citizens, but rather applying tighter regulations to firearms and to close the numerous loopholes that allow those with ill intent to buy guns with ease.
Stricter gun control measures, after all, are meant to limit access to guns for those people with criminal intent, not to prevent law-abiding citizens who are willing to go through a modest process to register a gun purchase and, hopefully, act responsibly.
The incident at San Bernadino in which 14 people were killed, 17 wounded, and two suspects killed by police, is also very different from last week’s killings at a Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado Springs. In that case, an unsettled white middle-age man with a history of abuse against women had easy access to weapons and turned that against fellow Americans. A similar case of domestic violence happened earlier this Wednesday in Florida in which one person was killed and three wounded — the 354th mass shooting of the year.
With incidents of gun-related “domestic terrorism,” as one law official put it, the question is how do we address a culture of violence that has spawned more than one “mass shooting” (defined as at least four victims being either injured or killed) for every day of the year so far.
One fact is plain: Easy access to guns is the distinguishing characteristic between this country and any other developed nation in the world.
Speaking after the Colorado Springs shootings last week, President Obama again implored Americans to not let such mass shootings become a “normal” part of our culture, but the evidence is strong that it already is.
While 2015 is on track to have the most mass shootings in the nation’s history, it just recently surpassed the count in 2014, which was only slightly ahead of the 363 mass shootings in 2013. The trend is getting slightly worse, but the travesty is that we endure such violence against each other without a serious discussion of how we might change the paradigm.
How can the nation reverse the trend? Stricter gun control registration won’t be a panacea, but it would help. Background checks should be mandatory and sufficient enough, in terms of the time it takes, to ensure those who might try to dodge the system are caught. And we should be able to deny guns to those on a federal FBI or CIA terrorism suspect list — even if they have yet to commit a crime in this country. This has nothing to do with limiting the right to bear arms or being able to form a militia, but rather common sense measures to allow law enforcement authorities to know what’s going on in their backyard.
“The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” said President Obama on Wednesday, “and there’s some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently. (There are) common-sense gun safety laws, stronger background checks and, you know, for those who are concerned about terrorism… some may be aware that we have a no-fly list where people can’t get on planes, but those same people who we don’t allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm and there’s nothing that we can do to stop them.”
Simply put, there are practical ways to limit the ability of some people (whom law enforcement officials and the courts deem high risk) to buy firearms, while preserving Americans’ rights to own them. Hopefully the NRA and their conservative Republican supporters will resist the urge to shut down any discussion that might infringe on the right to bear arms long enough to have a national conversation and finally change the dynamic that is the root cause of so much domestic violence.
Angelo S. Lynn

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