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And America does nothing. Again

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Here we are again, extending thoughts, prayers and sympathy to the victims of a gun massacre, this time 26 worshippers Sunday at a Texas church (the fact that we are praying for people slaughtered while they were praying is both ironic and heart-breaking), reported Los Angeles Times (US).

It wasn’t the gun, the nation will be told by the NRA and its backers, and clearly the gunman suffered from (fill in the blank). And remember, guns don’t kill people, people kill people (as in, people with guns kill people, but never mind that).

And we’ll be told again that it’s too soon to discuss gun policy — we must first give the families time to grieve. The gunman was a white man so we must search for the causes and address them without touching gun laws; had he been a Muslim, well, that would be terrorism and we would be told we must close the borders (and gloss over the guns). And today’s traffic report says the 405 Freeway has the usual slowing through the Sepulveda Pass while the East L.A. interchange is a slow go. In weather, it will be cool and partly cloudy. The tide will rise and ebb and the sun will rise and set and in (TBD) days another white man will use a gun to murder (fill in the blank) people and the nation will extend thoughts and prayers to the victims while we don’t talk about guns then, either, because, well, grief.

The familiarity of this is disgusting. There have been at least 21 mass killings (defined as at least four dead in one incident) so far this year, in which 176 people have been killed and 486 wounded, led by the sniper slaughter in Las Vegas last month, according to statistics maintained by the Gun Violence Archive. There have been more than 305 mass shootings (defined as at least four people struck by bullets in one incident) with nearly 400 killed and 1,650 wounded. The notion that the “good guy with a gun” solution could ever stanch this kind of bloodletting is ridiculous.

This is what we accept as normal in the United States of America. This is what we shrug off. The vast majority of gun deaths each year occur in relative obscurity. Suicides. Men killing their intimate partners. Men killing their families. Men killing each other. Nearly always men. It’s the big dramatic moments, like Texas on Sunday and Las Vegas last month, that get public notice. In September, an estranged husband killed nine people in a Dallas suburb at a football-watching party at the spouse’s house, and it barely caused a ripple. That few people nationwide know about that incident is part of our national indictment. Nine dead, and we barely batted an eye. What in the end will move us to act if 26 dead children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School did not?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support stricter gun control laws, but they are less politically active than gun owners, according to a recent Pew Research Center study that found 21% of gun owners have contacted public officials on the issue, compared with only 12% of people who support tighter laws. We often wonder what it will take for Congress to shake loose the grasp of the NRA, and maybe this is where the answer lies: When American voters finally care enough to make it an issue. Even a majority of gun owners support some gun control laws, such as universal background checks. But the NRA blocks even minor steps of progress, and it’s to the shame of the “responsible” gun owners of the nation that they let such a dangerous and cynical entity set the agenda for them.

Gerrymandering plays a role in this, as well, with the NRA helping elect gun-rights absolutists in congressional districts carved out to magnify the weight of conservative voters. But it’s hard to believe that a majority of conservative voters can look at the carnage inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and say that their deaths are worth the trade-off of allowing private citizens to own military-style weapons. This nation — left, right and center — needs to look in the mirror and ask why we let this go on. And if it takes thought and prayer to move us to action, well then maybe thought and prayer will finally play a positive role in addressing our national disgrace.

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