Yes, mass shootings can happen here. They’ll continue to happen because our solemn resolve to take action “so this never happens again” after every mass shooting has always been an empty promise.
What we do best, what we have a lot of experience in, is erecting temporary memorials of crosses, flowers and stuffed animals at the shooting site, mourning the victims, and extending our “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims. What we’re not so good at is tasking positive steps to prevent the next tragedy. As a result, mass shootings continue to happen almost daily, everywhere.
Time to wake up and deal with the realization that it can happen here. We’re shocked, appalled, sad, discouraged, and all those other emotions that hit us after a national tragedy like the killings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend. But we seem to get over it fast, not forgetting it, but not being overwhelmed with it because it’s a such a terrible thing to have to deal with daily.
So we go back to our routines, maybe overconfident that these terrible things are happening somewhere else. But we have soft targets here, too. Part of our summer fun in these parts is festivals, concerts, ball games — all involving large crowds with minimum attention to security. This will have to change.
No, we don’t want to arm ourselves, because in our present state of mind, in our suppressed state of rage against what’s happening to and in our nation, we’ll wind up with even more killings. But the system that has worked so well in the past, a national majority that is normally so peace-loving and law-abiding that we need a relatively small police force, seems to be a relic of a Mayberry past.
There are some things we can do. We first of all want to ensure that our schools are safe. Local schools are already taking some measures to prevent a tragedy, with resource officers and locked entrances. At a minimum, we should be demanding — not politely begging — that all schools have metal detectors. We also need those at the entrance of any large event.
It’s also time to introduce more of that Big Brother technology like facial recognition to keep track of potential shooters in a crowd. If we were guaranteed a safe experience wherever we went, we wouldn’t need that kind of intrusive measure. The days of not having to worry about something bad happening, or not being constantly on the alert, are long gone. We want to keep our families safe. Might be a choice between giving up some of our freedom, or our lives.
Some of the other changes are doable — restricting the availability of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, closer monitoring of those with grudges or mental health issues, and rooting out the haters on social media. A change that might take longer is persuading our president to act presidential and not condone, and in some cases encourage, racial discrimination. Can you believe we have a supposed national and world leader who engages in this kind of behavior?
It’s like a bad movie where you know someone is going to ride in and save us all from a daily dose of hate-filled insults and actions. In our case, no one is riding in, not even in sight — especially the weak-kneed politicians we send to Washington to represent us, to protect our interests, and to restore the basic decency of the highest office.
What they’re doing now is taking a break from their inaction in Congress — a break that might have made sense in the steamy summer days of Washington before air conditioning, but is particularly pathetic now with all the issues they’re supposed to be working on. Time to end that break.
Our gun violence is not confined to mass shooting, but is a daily occurrence. We’re desensitized to gun violence. It’s normalized and glorified in gory cop shows on TV, in movies, and in video games. We need to light a fire under our politicians, especially those in Washington whose main concern is getting re-elected, rather than banning assault rifles, requiring stricter requirements for gun ownership, and working to curb the rhetoric from our president that encourages hate, discrimination and more violence.
Whatever it takes, it has to be more effective than empty promises.
Bill Pritchard, who worked in community journalism for 30 years, writes from Frederick. Reach him at email@example.com.