Minnesota, like most of the nation, spent much of the past week trying to comprehend back-to-back mass shootings that left more than 30 people dead and dozens more injured.
Sadly, such reflection is all too familiar. Perhaps worse, such reflection also portends an all-too-familiar result: no changes.
Yet the tragedies in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, do offer some insights that could help build enough momentum nationwide so that America finally begins to enact changes.
Those insights fall into three broad categories: Undeniable outcomes, civility (and lack thereof,) and laws and lawmakers.
Two aspects of these tragedies speak volumes about the horrific effects of mass shootings — how fast people die and how the world is, indeed, watching.
First, Dayton shooter Connor Betts was shot by police within about 30 seconds of opening fire. Yet even with that incredibly rapid response, police say Betts fired about 40 bullets, killing nine people and injuring dozens more, including at least 16 with his gunfire. He was carrying about 250 rounds of ammunition, police said.
That carnage came despite trained police stopping him in 30 seconds! Yet too many people want to embrace “more good guys with guns” as the way to stem mass shootings.
That officer was about as good a guy as you could find responding in 30 seconds — and nine people still died, with dozens more hurt.
Second, look at how all these mass shootings are shaping the perception of this nation.
“Active shooter insurance” is now an actual product organizations can purchase. And, don’t forget, it was just the previous week that another mass shooter killed six people and wounded dozens at a garlic festival in California.
No wonder Japan, Uruguay and Venezuela became the newest nations to issue travel warnings or alerts about mass shootings posing risks in the United States.
As the Los Angeles Times noted, the Japanese Consul in Detroit published an alert that said Japanese nationals “should be aware of the potential for gunfire incidents everywhere in the United States,” which it described as “a gun society.”
France, New Zealand and Germany previously have issued similar announcements after other mass shootings.
Perception is reality — and clearly more countries see America’s mass shootings no differently than travel warnings about terrorism. Really, are they?
Investigations show these two mass shooters were steeped in the divisive and polarizing rhetoric all too common to today’s national political dialog.
El Paso shooting suspect Patrick Crusius posted a manifesto that, while extreme and insane, also has clear parallels to the despicable and disparaging themes President Trump routinely uses regarding immigrants and others amid his championing nativism — and his own re-election.
News reports about Betts in Dayton show his recent support for extreme leftist positions and a combination of support and impatience with various front-running Democratic presidential candidates.
The point is not whether these shooters were politically red or blue. Rather, it’s that the polarizing rhetoric of today’s politics — shouted the loudest and most often by Trump — clearly influenced two already-extremist young men.
Laws and lawmakers
By now, common-sense Americans know reducing mass shootings is a daunting, nation-defining problem. It’s not just about guns, just about mental health, just about background checks, or just about ...________ (fill in the blank.)
Like any complex challenge, the solution must involve changing many factors. Yet too many of the special interests on all sides are again declaring — through the elected officials they, ahem, support— that they will not compromise.
Until those elected officials either lose their financial support or are replaced with more open-minded candidates, these important first steps on multiple fronts will not happen:
• Require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows.
• Do more to regulate high-capacity weapons. Think intense background checks, mandatory training and even liability insurance.
• Ramp up resources for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms so that gun sellers are reviewed more often and with more scrutiny.
• Allow local and state governments more latitude in regulating firearms.
• Fully fund comprehensive mental health care. There is no denying that more resources for mental health care could help prevent mass shootings.
The solutions are multi-faceted — and far from extreme. Now, if we could just the say the same about the politicians elected to adopt them.
St. Cloud Times