Hor­ror in Te­hama

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - OPINION -

Hor­ror came to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Tues­day morn­ing, as a gun­man ram­paged through mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing an ele­men­tary school, shoot­ing at ran­dom tar­gets and killing at least four peo­ple.

Po­lice de­scribed a chaotic scene in Ran­cho Te­hama, in ru­ral Te­hama County, about 120 miles north­west of Sacramento: at least five crime scenes, af­ter what be­gan as a “do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent.” In ad­di­tion to the ca­su­al­ties, at least 10 peo­ple were hos­pi­tal­ized, in­clud­ing chil­dren. Sher­iff ’s deputies fa­tally shot the gun­man. Au­thor­i­ties said he had a record of “prior con­tacts” with law en­force­ment.

Ran­cho Te­hama joins a long and grisly list of com­mu­ni­ties that have been ter­ror­ized by sim­i­lar acts of vi­o­lence this fall.

Just last Sun­day, a gun­man at­tacked a small church out­side of San Antonio dur­ing ser­vices, killing 26 peo­ple and in­jur­ing 20 more. Last month, a gun­man in a high-rise ho­tel in Las Ve­gas opened fire on the crowd at a coun­try­mu­sic fes­ti­val be­low. The death toll there was 58. Hun­dreds more had their lives for­ever changed through in­juries.

Against this con­stant back­ground of mass shoot­ings and ran­dom gun vi­o­lence, it can be dif­fi­cult to re­main outraged. Yet re­main­ing outraged is cru­cial, be­cause none of this has to hap­pen.

We could choose, as a na­tion, to end this hor­rific cy­cle.

Gun con­trol has been anath­ema to Washington politi­cians for decades. But there are tepid signs that this may be chang­ing.

Af­ter the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing, mem­bers of Congress — in­clud­ing Repub­li­cans — called for re­stric­tions on “bump stocks,” the de­vice the gun­man used to ac­cel­er­ate the gun­fire from his semi­au­to­matic weapons. Sur­pris­ingly, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion joined the ef­fort.

It was the small­est of steps for­ward. Ban­ning bump stocks will not stop Amer­ica’s mass shoot­ings.

But it was a rare ac­knowl­edg­ment that gun con­trol, which is a proven strat­egy to re­duce gun vi­o­lence around the world, might fi­nally make progress in the U.S.

Par­ents shouldn’t have to fear for their chil­dren’s lives when they drop them off at school. Cit­i­zens shouldn’t have to fear for their own lives when they go to church, or the movies, or a con­cert. Our lives are at stake every sin­gle day that Congress does noth­ing.

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