Sitting in a barbershop Monday, waiting for a chair to open up, I was watching along with everyone else the television coverage of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. A guy getting a haircut was giving his two cents. It’s all the coverage that’s the problem. These type of things have always happened, we just didn’t hear about it as much.
His argument was not only illogical but demonstrably false. Of course, on the issue of mass shootings and what to do about them, no one is making sense.
Within minutes of the shootings, the inevitable blame game resumed with both sides returning to their tired talking points. At least the “thoughts and prayers” that became such a cliche after past mass shootings showed recognition that actual lives were lost, families ripped apart, bright futures destroyed. We don’t even pause long enough for that anymore, it’s straight to the argument.
Both sides seem to think they have the answer. Both sides recoil at the thought of embracing anything the other side has to say. To some it’s all about gun control, as if there is no other way to kill and create havoc. To others it’s all about mental illness, as if there aren’t crazy people the world over who don’t commit heinous acts.
Here’s the deal. There is no one answer. Anyone who thinks otherwise is as foolish as the revisionist historian sitting in that barber chair. This problem is many years in the making with myriad, interconnected issues and it won’t be solved overnight or without both sides cooperating.
Do we have a problem with guns in this country? Of course we do. If you aren’t willing to concede that, you either aren’t paying attention, are far more worried about constitutional theory than human lives or are just an idiot. That doesn’t mean it’s time to revoke the Second Amendment. It doesn’t mean anyone’s going to come after your weaponry if you give them no reason to do so.
But why not take away the most convenient and effective way to inflict mass casualties? We had a ban on so-called assault weapons from 1994 to 2004. A similar one could’ve been imposed after the Sandy Hook shooting but was voted down by the Senate. Would a ban on assault weapons make a huge difference in gun homicide rates? Nope. Most shootings are not done by semi-automatic weapons. But far too many of these mass shootings, in which dozens of lives can be lost in minutes, do involve these weapons. No one needs these guns, not for sport, not for protection.
More thorough background checks also seem an obvious measure. Even President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell are talking about passing legislation to this end. Of course, we’ve heard that before, but instead of being skeptical and dredging up the past, the Democrats should take advantage of this crack and work together to get something done. Trump did, after all, help outlaw bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting.
Making it more difficult would help, but wouldn’t solve the problem. People who are willing to die in the act of killing aren’t too worried about breaking a law or two. Even if they can’t legally purchase a weapon, there are plenty out there to steal.
But if you think mass murder is all about guns, again, you’re either not paying attention, you’re too locked in to your own politics or you’re an idiot.
There are plenty of other ways to kill. Bombs. Trucks as assault vehicles. Old-school weaponry. Poison.
This is where we talk about mental health. Yes, we need to provide better mental health care in this country. We need to be able to take action against those believed to be dangerous, for their own protection and for others'. And we can’t ignore the many other factors that contribute, possibly pushing over the edge those already mentally ill or susceptible to radicalization.
That could mean religious zealots. That could mean those who see the media’s coverage of mass shootings as glorification. That could mean those who can’t separate video game killing from reality. That could definitely mean white supremacists.
And it’s still more than that. It’s law enforcement agencies not communicating well enough with each other. It’s schools being powerless to punish early behavior that shows warning signs. it’s the disintegration of the family unit. It’s the ever-widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots. It’s social media. Please don’t forget social media.
It’s all of us, Right and Left, arguing over who’s right and wrong, insulting those we disagree with politically, blaming the president or the media or the Facebook friend whose posts got so far out there they had to be blocked.
Enough blaming and arguing. The only way to even make headway against such a complex and horrific problem is to get all sides working together on the root causes of these depraved acts as well as the methods used to carry them out.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at email@example.com.