I will be thinking about fallen members of the military this Memorial Day weekend. About how they gave up their lives for this country — for our rights — many thousands of them shot dead in combat on foreign soil.
But I will also be thinking about the many thousands shot dead right here in the United States, in their homes, in their schools, in their places of work or places of worship, in the streets. The number of people who have been killed in gun homicides in our country since 2016 exceeds the number of U.S. soldiers killed by any method during the entirety of the Vietnam conflict.
And what are we doing about it? Same thing we’ve always done.
I unplugged last weekend, took one of my kids to play in a basketball tournament out of state, and paid no attention to news that didn’t involve a guy my age winning the PGA Championship. So, Sunday night, my wife read some headlines to catch me up.
“3 people killed and 5 injured in shooting at bar in Youngstown.”
“Three found shot to death in Atlanta area condo.”
“1 dead, 3 injured in shooting in Indiana apartment.”
And on, and on, and on.
There were 12 mass shootings last weekend. Twelve.
Even in a country that, sadly, has become inured to mass shootings, that seemed like a lot. Yet, the week went on as if nothing had happened. Oh, maybe we lowered some flags, offered our usual thoughts and prayers on social media, mostly shrugged our shoulders.
The really sad part? Last weekend wasn’t an anomaly. There were 25 mass shootings across the country from May 16-27, according to Gun Violence Archive, part of the 233 so far in 2021. (By the time you read this, that number will be out of date.)
By the middle of the week we had completely forgotten about Youngstown and Atlanta and Indiana and were on to the San Jose, California shooter who killed nine co-workers at Valley Transportation Authority.
The gunman reportedly, in 2016, was discovered with a memo book filled with notes of hatred toward VTA, by US Customs and Border Protection officers, who also found books about terrorism and fear and manifestos, according to CNN. Signs were there. As usual.
He fired off 39 rounds. Three handguns were recovered. All were legally obtained and registered, according to San Francisco FBI. Another dozen firearms and 22,000 rounds of ammunition were found at his house, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
But, hey, no reason to make any changes, right?
That’s how too many people, particularly those in Congress, seem to think. They view the constitutional right to bear arms as an absolute that can’t in any way be infringed upon, guaranteed by a sentence written with a quill on parchment nearly 240 years ago — and quite likely misinterpreted ever since.
Lots of reverence for the Constitution; not so much for we the people.
The Constitution, of course, is one of the most important pieces of writing in world history and the Bill of Rights guarantees much of what we hold sacred as Americans.
But the idea that the founders, who couldn’t have conceived of a lightbulb let alone a semi-automatic weapon, could’ve foreseen — and been OK with — a time when mass shootings are commonplace and when Americans are 25 times more likely (according to Time magazine) to die from a gunshot than people in other wealthy countries, is ludicrous.
The idea that there are more than 300 million guns in circulation in the United States is more so.
The idea that there aren’t laws requiring the type of background checks that would’ve kept guns out of the hands of the San Jose shooter, putting severe limits on the amount and type of weapons that can be sold and significantly penalizing those who commit gun crimes is malpractice on the part of our elected officials.
But guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
Through Thursday, according to Gun Violence Archive, 17,655 people had, indeed, been killed by people.
With guns. If the deaths were from forks or balloons or paint thinner, we could look into doing something about them.
But it’s guns. Almost always guns. In suicides, in murders and, obviously, in accidental shootings.
In addition to viewing the right to bear arms as an absolute, the resistance to talk about gun violence solutions is often that if we took away every gun, people would still find a way to kill — with bombs or knives or by driving trucks into a crowds.
It’s true. That would happen.
But not 17,655 times through May 27. Not even close.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.