A Cal­i­for­nia bar is lat­est bat­tle­field in war on our­selves

The Idaho Statesman - - Opinion - LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

Numb. That’s the only word for it. Cal­i­for­nia awoke this morn­ing to re­ports of an­other mass shoot­ing, this time in Thou­sand Oaks, a sub­ur­ban com­mu­nity that prides it­self on be­ing among the safest cities in Amer­ica. More than 100 peo­ple, many of them col­lege kids, were in the Border­line Bar & Grill coun­try dance bar when a man dressed in black walked in with some sort of smoke-gen­er­at­ing de­vice and opened fire with a .45-cal­iber Glock hand­gun, killing 11 peo­ple in­side and Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, one of the first law en­force­ment of­fi­cers to ar­rive, be­fore killing him­self.

Mo­tive? Too soon to say. Pre­ventable? That an­swer ranges from ap­par­ently not to who the hell knows?

Numb. The Gun Vi­o­lence Ar­chive re­ports that gun­men have shot and killed 1,096 peo­ple, in­clud­ing the Thou­sand Oaks vic­tims, in Cal­i­for­nia since the first of the year. In the same pe­riod, gun­men na­tion­wide have taken the lives of 114 peo­ple in 18 mass killings, de­fined as in­ci­dents in which at least four peo­ple are killed ex­clud­ing the shooter. No place seems safe. In re­cent years Amer­i­cans have been gunned down en masse in schools and houses of wor­ship, mu­sic venues and in their own homes. The shooters have been mo­ti­vated by racism, by rage over pol­i­tics, by men­tal ill­ness; in some cases, their rea­sons re­main in­scrutable.

And the pres­i­dent would have us trem­ble in fear of im­mi­grants.

It is im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine the grief of the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims. A tragic irony is that a few of the peo­ple in the dance bar Wed­nes­day night had also been in the crowd 13 months ago in Las Ve­gas when a gun­man opened fire from a sniper’s nest in the Man­dalay Bay ho­tel on the Route 91 Har­vest fes­ti­val across the street, killing 58 peo­ple and wound­ing 413 more. On that oc­ca­sion, an ad­di­tional 454 peo­ple suf­fered in­juries in the mad scram­ble to find cover or es­cape the open-air venue. On Wed­nes­day, more than a dozen peo­ple sim­i­larly suf­fered in­juries as they scram­bled for safety, in­clud­ing crawl­ing through win­dows shat­tered with bar fur­ni­ture.

This is just one more episode in our end­less rolling tragedy of gun vi­o­lence. Less than two weeks ago an anti-Semitic gun­man rant­ing about im­mi­gra­tion killed 11 peo­ple at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue. Eight weeks ago six peo­ple died when a gun­man moved through Bak­ers­field fir­ing in anger over a bro­ken re­la­tion­ship. Twelve weeks ago a dis­traught fa­ther in the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia city of Clear­lake shot his four chil­dren, killing three of them be­fore killing him­self.

And on goes the body count.

In re­cent years these killings have hap­pened in every cor­ner of the coun­try, from an Ore­gon com­mu­nity col­lege to a San Bernardino hol­i­day party to a Florida high school to a Con­necti­cut el­e­men­tary school. As the sharp pain of grief sub­sides to a per­sis­tent ache, calls for stricter gun con­trol laws are shushed by the gun lobby, which ac­cuses those who try to fix this scourge of not show­ing ap­pro­pri­ate re­spect for the dead, of politi­ciz­ing tragedy. But this coun­try would be much bet­ter off show­ing more re­spect for the liv­ing by lim­it­ing easy ac­cess to guns, thereby re­duc­ing these grotesque lev­els of vi­o­lence.

There are far, far too many guns float­ing around the U.S., both legally and il­le­gally owned. Time was, peo­ple bought guns to go hunt­ing, or to prac­tice tar­get shoot­ing. In re­cent years gun own­ers have told poll-tak­ers that their guns are for “per­sonal safety.” Yet they are far more of­ten used to threaten, in­tim­i­date or kill fam­ily mem­bers, or in sui­cides. Less of­ten, but with more no­tice taken, they are used to mow down mass num­bers of peo­ple, as oc­curred Wed­nes­day night here in Cal­i­for­nia.

Is this a fix­able prob­lem? There has long been a lack of po­lit­i­cal will to take on the pow­er­ful Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, but at some point, that ap­par­ent lack of po­lit­i­cal will by de­fault be­comes the po­lit­i­cal will: We de­cide through in­ac­tion that the sta­tus quo is ac­cept­able.

Is that what Amer­i­cans want? Are we will­ing to let the bod­ies stack up on the prin­ci­ple that we all need our own per­sonal ar­se­nals to fight the bo­gey­man of tyranny? Have we been out­gunned by a heart­less ad­ver­sary that cares more about cold steel than warm, beat­ing hearts?

For the sake of the fu­ture vic­tims, we hope not.

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