Who is responsible?

Opinion: Columns

August 6th, 2019 12:42 PM

By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Divide-and-Conquer Trump is largely responsible. Moscow Mitch McConnell and his Republican do-nothings are largely responsible. Those who blindly support the party of doing nothing are largely responsible. Those who always say it's too soon to politicize these mass shootings are largely responsible. Those who insist gun regulation won't work, even though statistics prove otherwise, are largely responsible. Those who say gun legislation won't prevent all mass shootings, therefore we shouldn't try are largely responsible. Those who say only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns are largely responsible. Those who profit from the virtually unlimited manufacture and proliferation of weapons are largely responsible. Those who promote gun rights without comparable gun responsibility are largely responsible. Those who promote violent video games and violent films are largely responsible. Those who suffer from an unnatural love of instruments of death are largely responsible.

Bloodshed stains many hands.

El Paso and Dayton (and Douglas Park in Chicago) — fresh in our memories, even as Gilroy, California and so many other national open wounds recede from memory. Over 30 new deaths, dozens newly wounded. Hundreds more loved ones traumatized, countless lives damaged.

Meanwhile, our poor excuse for a president pays pathetically inadequate lip service, then makes plans for his next mini-Nuremberg rally to whip his mindless followers into another hateful frenzy. He claims he isn't a racist while freely admitting that racial division is his most effective re-election strategy. He's right. It's his only chance. Get Americans to hate and fear one other and hope that more of his side will get out and vote with venom. That's all he's got. It's up to the rest of us to prove him wrong.

Myriad challenges face this nation, but that's not the problem. The problem is whatever prevents us from addressing those challenges, whatever prevents us from finding solutions. Moscow Mitch McConnell and his Republican fellow travelers are the problem. 

Ideas abound. Some will work more, some less, but we have to try them to find out. Moscow Mitch and the GOP, having no solutions and fearing the NRA and gun manufacturers, prevent almost every attempt to reduce gun violence. Some did vote to ban bump stocks after Las Vegas, which was mostly for political cover, but at least they proved there's a line some are willing to cross. 

But there's so much more: A unified, nationwide system of background checks, no loopholes for gun sales. Cracking down on "bad-apple" gun dealers. Banning the sale of military-style/assault-style weapons. Limiting ammunition magazines and banning high-capacity magazines (the Dayton shooter killed 9 and wounded 27 in less than a minute before police brought him down). Safe storage of guns at home and in vehicles. Preventing straw-buyers from purchasing weapons for those who shouldn't have them. Regulating and taxing ammunition. Firearm orders of protection/restraining orders to prevent domestic violence deaths and suicides. Lifting the federal ban on gun violence research. Requiring smart-gun technology so only the owner can fire his gun. Longer waiting periods after purchasing firearms. More mental health services, available and affordable, and more coordination between mental health professionals and law enforcement in "red flag" cases.

The gun promoters' only idea for reducing gun violence is more guns in more hands. It has been tried and it has failed. We know now it does not deter mass shootings. And good guys with guns are rarely, if ever, on hand to "protect" the vulnerable. More guns only make it easier for those who shouldn't have them to get them.

Republicans have failed the leadership test on every challenge this country faces. Failed utterly. If Americans want to see any improvement, the do-nothings must be voted out in 2020 and Democrats must be given a large enough governing majority to prove they can get results with common-sense measures to reduce gun violence — as well as making health care accessible and affordable to everyone, stopping and reversing the effects of climate change, and a host of other life-and-death issues that Republicans have not and never will address. 

If we don't vote the do-nothings out, then we are largely responsible, too.

To read more, I recommend E.J. Dionne's excellent column in the Washington Post ("On guns and white nationalism one side is right and one is wrong," Aug. 4) and the Chicago Sun-Times' hard-hitting editorial ("It's about the guns," Aug. 4).

And here's the statement issued by Chicago's Cardinal Cupich in the aftermath of El Paso and Dayton:

We reject the idea that living in America means risking being gunned down by a killer wielding an assault weapon designed for mass killing.

We refuse to become inured to the horrible idea that families must calculate the risk of violent death when considering how to spend a summer weekend.

We cannot tolerate a society in which parents have to wonder whether the child they dropped off in the morning will become another statistic or if their own lives will end that day in their place of work.

Mass shootings are not an inevitability. All human beings have the right to live without violence. To behave otherwise is to advance a lie. Stopping this lie begins with holding accountable our elected officials who have done nothing to address gun violence. Inaction only cements the idea that these tragedies are acceptable and that the weapons that enable them are simply common features of American life today.

But we also need to hold accountable those in society, including some leaders, who fuel these violent acts by dividing humanity through hateful rhetoric. This must stop — along with the silence of our elected officials who have failed to condemn hate speech, for they are the very ones who have sworn to keep our nation safe.

We know that together we can do something to stem the flow of blood. And we call on our elected officials to show us that they know it too.



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