Get unlimited digital access to baltimoresun.com. $0.99 for 4 weeks.
News Opinion Op-Eds

Gun violence: America's new pastime?

Given that some sort of horrific, headline-grabbing school shooting now occurs in the United States at a rate of once a week, it's hard to argue against the idea that gun violence is as much a national pastime as baseball. Unlike baseball, however, the season never ends.

In just the last couple of weeks, troubled loners brought guns and death to a college campus in Seattle and a high school near Portland, and a couple of anti-government misfits went on a deadly rampage in Las Vegas.

The incident at Seattle Pacific University involved a mentally unstable young man who purposely went off his medications so he could "feel the hate" and murder as many people as possible. After killing a 19-year-old student and shooting others, the killer had to stop and reload, giving time for a hero with pepper spray to take him down and stop the shooting.

At the suburban Portland high school, a student came to school carrying heavy-duty weapons that belonged to his parents. He shot a teacher and killed a 14-year-old classmate before running into a restroom and committing suicide.

The two campus shootings match a pattern that betrays a dismal lack of originality among the nation's sick-minded young males. In fact, evidence indicates the shooter in Seattle was purposely emulating the two killers at Columbine High School in suburban Denver who killed 13 of their fellow students before taking their own lives back in 1999. Since Columbine, most of these incidents have been mere variations on the same deadly theme.

The Las Vegas shooting was different. There, a young married couple walked into a pizza restaurant where the man killed one policeman and his bride killed another. Apparently, they did this as an act of "revolution" against the U.S. government. The man draped a "Don't Tread On Me" flag over one cop's body and placed a swastika on the other. Then, they stormed into a nearby Walmart where the women killed a shopper who had pulled out a concealed handgun.

In a subsequent gun battle with police, the man was mortally wounded; the woman, also wounded by police, shot herself dead.

All this mayhem prompted President Barack Obama to make some off-the-cuff remarks in which he expressed deep frustration with the failure of Congress to take even the smallest step to curb the violence. He noted that when Australia suffered a series of mass shootings, the government stepped in with a broad ban on personal weaponry. Australia has not had any deadly incidents since.

A similar ban won't happen here, of course. In the years since Columbine, high-powered rifles and stockpiles of ammunition have only become more easy to obtain. The Supreme Court, for the first time, has clearly defined the Second Amendment right to bear arms as a personal , not collective, right. It is now OK to take guns to national parks and, in several states, firearms activists are successfully pushing for the right of private citizens to openly carry guns on the street, on campuses and in stores and restaurants.

Everyone seems to agree that mentally disturbed people should not have guns, but little has been done to keep firearms away from them or to get them comprehensive treatment that might keep them from becoming killers. Meanwhile, the insanity of anti-government paranoia -- the kind that led to the killing of the Las Vegas cops -- continues to be tolerated and often encouraged by talk radio shouters, militia groups and even some Republican elected officials.

The United States is the only advanced, industrialized country with this problem. In less-developed regions there are countries where gun violence is rampant -- places like Somalia and the Central African Republic, but those are anarchic places where no effective governmental authority exists. In America, we have a government that some people believe is too big and overbearing, yet, when it comes to guns, we might as well have no government at all.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • David Horsey photo gallery
    David Horsey photo gallery

    Cartoons and essays by David Horsey of the L.A. Times

  • Street policing doesn't belong in school
    Street policing doesn't belong in school

    In recent months, there has been a flood of video evidence of police violence in our communities. Earlier this week, a gut-wrenching video surfaced that shows a school police officer violently attacking three young girls inside one of our middle schools. The incident starts when one of the...

  • Look to animals to cure Ebola
    Look to animals to cure Ebola

    GlaxoSmithKline and Merck will test new Ebola vaccines in West Africa this month. They're racing to cure this disease that causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and other mammals. To date, Ebola has claimed more than 8,600 lives and infected more than 20,000 people in Sierra Leone,...

  • Why Black History Month?
    Why Black History Month?

    Every February, college professors like myself are tasked with reminding students and the general public of the significance of Black History Month. Undoubtedly, many people understand the potential value behind a designated month dedicated to this part of American history. Our country is...

  • Realizing a 'Greater' Baltimore
    Realizing a 'Greater' Baltimore

    Though people may describe the region around Baltimore City as "Greater Baltimore," area leaders — from government, business, non-profits and academia — could do more to fully embrace that term and develop the potential it implies. Doing so is a critical component for the...

  • Exercise: find the time for it
    Exercise: find the time for it

    The early-morning holiday shoppers of last month have been replaced at the mall by early-morning walkers, some of whom have begun new exercise regimens for the new year.

  • Medicare 'quality indicators' diverge from quality care
    Medicare 'quality indicators' diverge from quality care

    Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced this week that, through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare would be taking drastic steps to assure that doctors are paid not for visits and procedures, but rather for the value of their work. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid...

  • Googling America's sex life
    Googling America's sex life

    Google knows my dress size and that I wear flats. It knows I do yoga, and it is always trying to sell me clothes to wear to class.

Comments
Loading