Two hundred fifty-two. That’s the number of mass shootings in the U.S. in the past 246 days.
When the media reported 30 days ago that the number was 251, gun supporters criticized the number. Their only recourse to such a horrific reality was to question the definition of a mass shooting and minimize the problem by discrediting the total number.
So, just to be clear, the number comes from the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter. The FBI does not use the term mass shootings but refers to these as “active shooter incidents,” which exclude drug or gang violence and accidental discharges of a gun. In 2013, Congress defined a mass killing as three or more killings in a single incident. The Associated Press doesn’t provide a definition, suggesting the phrase mass shooting should be avoided altogether.
No matter what source you use, I think we can all agree the number is too high.
On Aug. 3, the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, took place 13 hours apart. Many of us were devastated the day we heard that news and watched the accounts play out on national television. Some called for common-sense gun laws and red-flag legislation. But as the days went on, we went back to our normal lives.
On Saturday, less than 30 days later, another mass shooting took place in Texas, this time in Odessa. Seven between the ages of 15 and 57 gunned down and 25 others injured, including a 17-month-old girl.
Again, the sadness and disbelief have subsided and the pit in our stomach is not as prominent as it was on the morning that we first heard the news. We have all gone back to our hectic schedules. In Williamson County, school is back in full swing, summer is over and football is here. Things are back to normal.
But not for the families of the victims of the mass shootings. Those families are overcome with grief and their lives are forever changed. We are all saddened temporarily, but when it happens to someone else, it is easier to sweep it under the rug.
I rarely post controversial things on social media. I am in publishing and other than the occasional post for Alzheimer’s awareness, I am careful not to share my opinion much. It is my job to remain unbiased, and I do a good job of that. Fairness and objectivity are the cornerstones of our business, and I take that seriously.
But as I sat there on Aug. 3 and watched the media’s account of the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, I felt more apprehensive about staying silent than I did about speaking up.
So, I took to social media. I posted on Facebook. I took all the hurt, confusion, frustration and I posted. It was meant to spark dialogue and understanding on both sides of the issue.
I want to make it clear; this is not political for me. I don’t understand why the subject of common-sense gun laws is so sensitive? I would think that law-abiding gun owners would want all gun owners to be held accountable to the same standards as they are.
So, I am going to ask the question. I am going to address the elephant in the room. Are we ready now? Are we ready to have a rational discussion about common-sense gun laws? How many incidences will it take to create a sense of urgency on this subject?
Why would we, as a country, not be in favor of universal background checks? Why can’t we discuss whether the average civilian needs a semiautomatic rifle or pistol with high capacity magazines?
What about red-flag laws? The shooter in the Odessa, Texas, shooting originally failed a background check and had a criminal history. Yet there was a loophole. To date, we don’t know how he got the gun. We have to start speaking up individually when we see that someone may pose a threat whether that is a family member, neighbor or friend.
The response from those opposed to common-sense gun laws is usually “It won’t work because they will find a way,” or “It would not have prevented that shooting anyway,” or “Gun restrictions have not worked in other countries.”
These excuses just don’t fly with me. So, are we saying that doing nothing is the best we’ve got? Is that response sufficient for the parents of the children who died in Sandy Hook, Columbine, El Paso or Odessa?
Those responses sound like they come from a country that has given up. It sounds like a copout. It sounds like a country frustrated and overwhelmed about what to do, so it is easier for some to do nothing.
It also sounds like a fear-based response. Fear of having your rights or your guns taken away.
Or fear of not being able to protect yourself.
Not one of the comments on my Facebook page 30 days ago said anything about taking away Second Amendment rights. The unanimous response was that many acknowledged that gun violence is a problem. They also acknowledged that any loss of life is unacceptable and horrific.
Although not everyone agreed, most posts advocated for background checks for all. No loopholes. Some agreed that we have to speak up about Facebook posts from those who are either crying out for help or inciting hate.
The US Justice Department banned bump stocks in 2018 after a lone gunman killed 58 people and wounded 422 at a music festival in Las Vegas. Can we take other commonsense steps toward responsible gun ownership? How about requiring all private transactions between buyers and sellers of clip fed rifles and pistols be handled through a registered firearms dealer? This would protect the public from that gun getting in the hand of someone that can’t pass a background check and it would protect the seller as well.
There are many reasons these shootings take place. It is a complex subject. It is not one I have the answers to.
But common-sense gun laws and better background checks are a basic first step to ensuring responsibility. We owe it to those families that were affected a month ago in the El Paso and Dayton shootings and the others that came before them. We owe it to the seven people who recently lost their life in Odessa. And we owe it to our own children, and their children, who never asked for any of this.
This new normal is not normal, and I am not willing to accept it.