The lone gunman: He was off. He was antisocial. No one thought he was capable of killing.
This is what we say about the domestic terrorists desperate to destroy humanity. We blame the carnage on evil and mental illness, but we don’t want to get serious about gun control and violence. In a matter of weeks we’ve seen two of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history.
On Sunday, Devin Kelley killed at least 26 people in a south Texas church. His victims were as young as 18 months old. But President Donald Trump says it’s “a little bit soon” to talk about gun control. Kelley, he says, is a “very deranged individual.” You know — just one bad guy who was really sick. “This is not a guns issue,” he says.
On another Sunday, Oct. 2, Stephen Paddock opened fire on 22,000 country music lovers in Las Vegas, killing 58. Trump called him a “sick, demented man with a lot of problems.” He put off a conversation on gun control and focused on “pure evil” instead. Paddock bought 33 firearms over the course of a year but raised no red flags. How could our country let this happen?
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I’m not trivializing mental illness. America must address proper health care and funding for this scourge. But only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness, according to federal statistics.
Sure, we can tighten up restrictions on people with mental illness trying to buy guns. Oh, wait! Trump reversed the regulations former President Barack Obama had put in place that would do just that.
We cannot ignore gun control. So many of these mass murderers, from Dylann Roof to James Holmes to Stephen Paddock, obtained their guns legally. So why aren’t we rethinking the process? Why is it always too soon to talk about it?
We know it’s not the color of the victims that is holding up the conversation. But is it the ethnicity of the shooters?
Just as he did after San Bernardino in 2015, Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration when Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 58 in Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub last year. Mateen was born in New York. He bought his guns legally. But he was born to immigrant parents, and Trump blames that — not our lax gun laws and inability to enforce the ones on the books.
Twenty-six worshippers were slaughtered in their sanctuary on Sunday. We’re now calling it the fifth worst shooting in modern U.S. history, where it seems every month brings another killing to rank. It can happen at a church, a club, a concert, a movie theater or an elementary school. Where next? We can mourn for babies and light our candles and pray because it’s easier to grieve than take action. As the president himself would say: Sad.
Some states are trying. California prohibits residents with violent misdemeanors from buying guns. There are Gun Violence Restraining Orders that allow civil courts to temporarily seize a person’s guns if they pose a threat.
But even when we have such restrictions in place, like the federal gun ban against domestic violence offenders, criminal records don’t always come up during background checks. Killers keep blasting through the loopholes. Kelley left the Air Force in 2014 after receiving a bad-conduct discharge for assaulting his wife and child and serving 12 months’ confinement. You’d think his abusive past would have prevented him from buying firearms from Academy Sports + Outdoors. Why didn’t it? Oh, the Air Force neglected to report the conviction to the FBI, officials said Monday.
What is going wrong? Why aren’t we scrutinizing the process, the loopholes, the stores and everyone involved in updating the paper trail? Why have we normalized the ownership of assault weapons like AK-47s and AR-15s?
The New York Times charted 555 mass shootings over the last 511 days. The nation’s lawmakers make no progress. We can’t just blame this on Trump. America had a longstanding problem with gun control well before the country elected the first president to give a keynote speech to the National Rifle Association since Ronald Reagan.
But Trump is adding to our adversity. The president and others have pushed the “good guy with a gun narrative,” praising the good Samaritan who shot at Kelley when he emerged from the church. “Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse,” Trump said. Another guy with a gun didn’t stop the killing. The shooting was over.
This is very much a “gun situation.” And piling more guns on it is not going to solve the public safety crisis.
How many more times are we going to cry for the dead and buy into the myth of the lone, mentally ill gunman? It’s clear these lone wolves have a pack: Congress.