Amer­ica’s script for mass mur­der plays out again — this time at a coun­try mu­sic bar

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

We wake up at 5:07 a.m. on Thurs­day to a news alert on our cell­phone:

“Sher­iff says 13 are dead in­clud­ing gun­man, sher­iff ’s sergeant af­ter shoot­ing at South­ern Cal­i­for­nia bar.”

Here we go again. Let’s watch this sorry script play out.

We await a pres­i­den­tial tweet of empty as­sur­ances.

Here it comes, right on time, at 5:38 a.m.: “I have been fully briefed on the ter­ri­ble shoot­ing in Cal­i­for­nia. Law En­force­ment and First Re­spon­ders, to­gether with the FBI, are on the scene.”

We await the next oblig­a­tory pres­i­den­tial tweet, the one laud­ing brav­ery and of­fer­ing con­do­lences.

Here it is, 13 min­utes later:

“Great brav­ery shown by po­lice. Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol was on the scene within 3 min­utes, with first of­fi­cer to en­ter shot nu­mer­ous times. That Sher­iff ’s Sergeant died in the hos­pi­tal. God bless all of the vic­tims and fam­i­lies of the vic­tims.”

The sergeant, Ron Helus, truly was brave. As we learn later, he was the first of­fi­cer in the door at the coun­try mu­sic bar in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia. He didn’t wait. He gave his life for oth­ers.

That’s it on the Trump tweets for now. There won’t be more for a while. Not un­less the shooter turns out to have been Mus­lim or Mex­i­can, in which case the pres­i­dent will be all over it.

But what about the flag thing? We can’t for­get the flag thing.

Ah, yes, here we go:

“The flag of the United States will be flown at half-staff,” the White House tweets at 8:48 a.m., “to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of last night’s hor­ri­ble act of vi­o­lence.”

Al­low us to sug­gest a small change to the per­ma­nent script. Let’s just fly the flag at half-staff all the time now, run­ning it to the top of the pole only on those rare days and weeks when the news is not full of slaugh­ter from guns.

The Thou­sand Oaks shoot­ing fol­lowed the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue shoot­ing in Pitts­burgh on Oct. 27, in which 11 peo­ple were killed; which fol­lowed the Santa Fe High School shoot­ing in Texas on May 18, in which 10 peo­ple were killed; which fol­lowed the Park­land, Florida, school shoot­ing on Feb. 14, in which 17 peo­ple were killed; which fol­lowed the Texas First Bap­tist Church shoot­ing on Nov. 5, 2017, in which 26 peo­ple were killed; which fol­lowed the Las Ve­gas Strip shoot­ing on Oct. 1, 2017, in which 58 peo­ple were killed; which fol­lowed the Or­lando, Florida, night­club shoot­ing on June 16, 2016, in which 49 peo­ple were killed.

And let’s not for­get the rolling mas­sacre of gun killings in our city and coun­try ev­ery day.

Now come the ac­counts of the sur­vivors. They re­sem­ble the ac­counts of ev­ery sur­vivor af­ter ev­ery mas­sacre, which makes them no less hor­ri­fy­ing.

Some­body says it “sounded like fire­crack­ers.” Some­body says he “thought it was a joke.” Some­body says it sounded like “pop, pop, pop.” Some­body re­mem­bers some­body shout­ing, “Get down!”

They cry on cam­era. They are in shock but don’t know it. They will live with the pain all their lives. They are col­lege kids now, but when they are old and gray, a shadow will pass over them as they re­mem­ber.

Slightly ahead of the stan­dard script, hardly be­fore we’ve had our morn­ing cof­fee, the killer is iden­ti­fied.

He ap­par­ently was not Mus­lim or Mex­i­can — sorry, Mr. Pres­i­dent. He was a Ma­rine vet­eran who may have suf­fered from post-trau­matic stress syn­drome. That, at least, was the view of a men­tal health spe­cial­ist who talked with him in April af­ter po­lice of­fi­cers were called to a dis­tur­bance at his home.

And now, right on time, come the weasels. They are the Wash­ing­ton leg­is­la­tors — mostly Repub­li­cans, but also Democrats — who live in fear of the gun lobby and take its money. To­day, as af­ter ev­ery mass mur­der, they put the blame any­where ex­cept where it most be­longs — with Amer­ica’s in­sane gun cul­ture. The killer, we are told, bought his gun legally, but maybe he should not have been al­lowed to have a gun at all af­ter he showed se­ri­ous signs of emo­tional in­sta­bil­ity.

“I stand with all Amer­i­cans in con­demn­ing to­day’s at­tempted acts of do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism,” Se­nate Pres­i­dent Mitch McCon­nell tweets at 8:19 a.m., re­gur­gi­tat­ing the same use­less words he spoke af­ter the shoot­ings in Or­lando, Las Ve­gas, Park­land, Sante Fe and Pitts­burgh.

And this ed­i­to­rial board, right on sched­ule, must again tell McCon­nell and his fel­low NRA lack­eys to take a hike.

You want to stand with “all Amer­i­cans,” se­na­tor? Get real about guns.

Ban the most lethal guns, such as the AR-15 style ri­fle. Pass a law re­quir­ing back­ground checks for all gun pur­chases. Im­pose a na­tional wait­ing pe­riod on gun sales. Ban the sale of ex­tended mag­a­zines for am­mu­ni­tion, such as the il­le­gally ob­tained one re­port­edly used by the Thou­sand Oaks killer.

Need more ideas, se­na­tor? We of­fered a cou­ple of dozen last sum­mer in an ed­i­to­rial cam­paign called “31 bul­lets.” Go to our web­site,

31bul­, and shop around. Work with the House, now in the hands of the will­ing Democrats, and do some­thing.

Cal­i­for­nia has among the strong­est gun laws in the na­tion, as it hap­pens, and among the low­est gun death rates. Our fed­eral laws should fol­low suit.

This old script will con­tinue to play out for days. McCon­nell and his crowd will get around to say­ing they’re go­ing to do some­thing, but they won’t. Some gun lob­by­ist shill will say it’s “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” to “politi­cize” the mas­sacre so quickly, as if the next mas­sacre might not be days away.

Peo­ple will mar­vel that some­thing like this could hap­pen in a place that is so “safe,” as if other sites of mass mur­ders — schools, a movie the­ater, a syn­a­gogue, a Bap­tist church — were not pre­sumed to be safe.

The smartest thing we heard all day, en­tirely off script, came from a man in Lon­don who won­dered what in God’s name is wrong with our coun­try.

“If this sit­u­a­tion was hap­pen­ing in most other West­ern coun­tries,” Kostas Gian­nakakis wrote in the com­ments sec­tion of a New York Times story, “the govern­ment would fall in a mat­ter of days and the whole coun­try would shut down from the mas­sive demon­stra­tions de­mand­ing the laws to change and bet­ter pro­tect the cit­i­zens.”

How does this script al­ways end?

We await the next news alert on our phone.


Mourn­ers em­brace Thurs­day in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., af­ter a gun­man shot and killed 12 peo­ple late Wed­nes­day at a bar that was hold­ing a coun­try mu­sic dance night for col­lege stu­dents.

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