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The Problem that will not go away

Mass shootings continue to happen all across the United States. When are we going to stand up and demand a change?

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Well, here we are again, being routinely and momentarily appalled by yet more mass shootings in the United States.

The tempo has increased. This time it was 18 dead in 48 hours in two separate shootings in California.

The Gun Violence Archive (GVA) reports that even before those 18 were taken from us, we had 37 mass shootings in the first three weeks of this year. Of the victims in these shootings, 21 were children under the age of 12, and 98 were teenagers.

The GVA also reported 647 mass shootings in 2022 in which over 4000 people died due to gun violence. And this happened all across America, from Colorado Springs and Denver in the west to Highland Park IL and Milwaukee in the Midwest. Shootings occurred in Jackson MS and Knoxville TN in the south, to Baltimore and Miami in the east.

Our gun violence has increased dramatically recently, but long ago surpassed that in European countries. Last May, the New York Times reported that between 1998 and 2019 the United States had a total of 101 mass shootings during a decade when European countries were reporting similar shootings in the single digits; France had 8 and Germany had 5 during those years.

The “let’s arm everybody” crowd may want to blame gun violence on COVID isolation and mental illness. They do factor in, but American mass shootings increased before COVID. From 2018 to 2020, the number of mass shootings in the U.S. nearly doubled from 336 in 2018 to 611 in 2020.

But these are just statistics which can be mind-numbing and easy to forget. They only mean something when we remember that those killed and wounded were children, parents, brothers and sisters, people with aunts and uncles, siblings, grandparents, and many friends.

Since I don’t want to mix politics and religion, I will pass over and leave unmentioned the fact that all these people were children of God (sarcasm intended).

We do have a deadly problem on our hands, but the solution isn’t rocket science. Not long ago, NBC TV news displayed two tables on the screen showing that states with the toughest gun restrictions had the lowest amount of gun violence, while states with the weakest gun control measures had much higher numbers.

It is not an accident that the states with the least gun violence were blue ones: Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. And, those with high gun violence were red ones: Mississippi, Idaho, Montana, Arkansas, and South Dakota.

At one point, I expected the “originalist” justices on the Supreme Court — those who want to conjure up the intentions of the original authors of the Constitution — to support limitations on gun ownership. After all, the Constitution does put gun rights and a “well-regulated militia” in the same sentence in the second amendment.

For a century, Supreme Court decisions on the second amendment did tend to link gun ownership with the idea of a citizen militia. In our day that has changed. In 2008, in Heller vs. the District of Columbia, the Court said that Americans could use guns “for lawful purposes” unconnected to any citizen militia. Eight years later, the Court said that the right to bear arms “extends to all forms of bearable arms.”

So that is where we are now, legally. Anyone can have a gun, no matter how fast it spews bullets or how large or heavy a military-style weapon it is. If you can lift it and pull the trigger, you are legal.

Of course, what is legal is not necessarily healthy, moral, or even sensible. Maybe it is time to step up and flood Congress with demands for keeping military weapons where they belong – with the military.

We need a grass roots campaign, like the one that led the high court to reverse Roe v. Wade. Surely killing innocent people with AR-15 type weapons is just as horrendous as permitting abortions.

Could we have a bit more consistency here, voters? Where are the morally righteous conservatives on this issue? Where are the annual marches on Washington to oppose this form of murder?

How long will this embarrassing hypocrisy continue?

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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