Media coverage of gun violence in America plays on a seemingly endless loop, and for heartbreaking reasons. In 2015, America is averaging more than one mass shooting a day in which four or more people are injured or killed by guns.
On Wednesday, this type of carnage reached a grisly, new level. Television reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were shot to death during a live morning interview in Virginia by Vester Lee Flanagan. He also shot and injured the women being interviewed. Flanagan later shot and killed himself.
The horrific incident reignited familiar arguments in the unconscionably drawn-out gun debate. Despite mass killings in recent years, Congress has failed to pass any meaningful laws to restrict gun ownership, not even the widely popular requirement of universal background checks. Meanwhile, states including Kansas and Missouri have gone the wrong way in making it easier to tote guns almost anywhere. In the Sunflower State, it’s now legal to carry a concealed weapon without a license or any training.
Wednesday’s slayings also opened the door to new, troubling issues. Flanagan left something else behind besides three innocent victims: a manifesto in which he raged against perceived discrimination against him as a black man. He included the disturbing assertion that he had bought his gun just after a deranged white man killed nine black people in June at a South Carolina church.
The prospect of copycat murders is never far away after a mass shooting incident, whether it’s at a school, a movie theater or, now, in a public setting during a TV interview. And they underscore the aching and reasonable feeling in society that unstable people need help not guns to solve their problems.
In a just world, the latest shootings would lead to passage of more responsible gun laws in America. The appalling reality is that they likely and sadly won’t.