The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)
Will this time be different?
Our nation has endured mass shootings for many years. After each one, our nation demands something be done.
Our nation has endured mass shooting after mass shooting for many years now. After each one a shocked nation demands that something be done to stem the tide of violence. Yet even after the most appalling attacks, such as the 2017 Las Vegas massacre that killed 58 people and wounded 422, or the 2012 Sandy Hook attack that killed 26 people, 20 of them young school children, little happens.
Much of the outrage focuses on the lack of action on the legislative front, especially in Washington. But that inaction extends to our culture as a whole. What have the American people as a whole done to cool the flames of anger and alienation that contribute significantly to this scourge? Not enough, clearly.
So here we are again, coming off a weekend during which more than 30 people were killed and about 50 injured in two massacres taking place within 24 hours of one another. The crimes in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, occurred less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded 13 others at a festival in Gilroy, Calif.
It sometimes seems as if Americans are becoming numb to these kind of crimes and losing their capacity for outrage in reaction to them. Yet the carnage over the weekend once again shook the nation to its core.
But what happens next? There are so many tremendous challenges to tackle here, it’s all too easy to throw up our hands and accept these horrors as just another unfortunate part of modern life. But we must not give in.
As usual, much of the discussion is going to focus on the issue of guns. We renew our call for at least adopting restrictions for the sort of efficient killing machines used in these crimes. Consider that the Ohio shooter was able to kill nine people and injure dozens more in about 30 seconds before police stopped him. Were it not for the swift, heroic efforts of law enforcement, the death toll would have been far worse. Should this troubled young man have had access to that kind of firepower?
We recognize that the debate over guns in this country is far from settled and that getting any new laws passed is an uphill climb, but there are measures out there that should have a chance of passing.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican who represents Pennsylvania, is a sponsor of a bipartisan bill to extend background checks to all commercial firearms sales.
He also supports enacting a “red flag” measure, which would allow family members or law enforcement officials to limit a person’s access to guns if they are deemed a potential threat. That idea is supported by other Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a strong ally of President Donald Trump. Considering that perpetrators of mass shootings often show signs of mental instability before they commit their crimes, this measure could make a difference.
The government also must redouble its efforts to treat white supremacist extremism the same way it has dealt with Islamic extremism since the 9/11 attacks. While not all the mass shootings are motivated by racial animus, enough of them are to make it clear that this ideology represents a profound threat. The El Paso shooting rightly is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
This means closely monitoring the activities of extremist groups, especially online, and engaging in a robust campaign across the mainstream political spectrum to make clear that it is unacceptable to use the sort of rhetoric that dehumanizes groups of people and leads some unstable individuals to conclude that exterminating them is necessary. For example, it’s quite possible to support stricter immigration rules and stronger border enforcement without resorting to demonizing language.
All of us, from the president on down, must work to end the ongoing shouting match that has been taking place for years now among people who differ on political issues. It creates an environment that breeds the sort of anger and alienation fueling these kinds of attacks. Strong disagreement is healthy for our democracy, if it’s expressed respectfully.
Let’s take these challenges on now rather than waiting for yet another tragedy to take place and starting yet another cycle of outrage that leads nowhere. It won’t be easy, but it must be done. To conclude otherwise, to give up hope, is to surrender to forces of darkness that could destroy this great nation it has taken centuries to build.