America doesn’t have a mass shooter problem. Recent numbers suggest it’s in the midst of a full-blown mass shooting epidemic.
According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, the number of mass shootings in 2019 has so far outpaced the number of the days in the year. By the organization’s count, there were 255 mass shootings through Aug. 5, which was the 217th day of 2019.
If the trend continues, 2019 will be the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one mass shooting per day.
In less than a month, there have been three mass casualty events involving gunmen with bad intentions. First came the shooting that resulted in the death of three people, including two children, at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California. That was followed by two more mass shootings on the same day last week. First, in El Paso, Texas, 22 people, ranging in age from 15 to 90, were shot and killed at Walmart by a man wielding a legally purchased 7.62 caliber rifle. Then came Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were killed when a man wielding a .223 caliber high-capacity rifle fired off 41 shots in less than 30 seconds.
The backgrounds and nationalities of the victims vary, but they all have one thing in common: They weren’t killed by bullets fired by foreign agents or terrorists from overseas. They were killed by other Americans.
The disturbing rise in gun violence contributes to growing tension about venturing out to public events and public places of any kind. As has been so clearly demonstrated, no place is safe from becoming a target.
As the country’s leaders continue to debate the issue, somewhere online, in darker areas of cyberspace, it’s safe to say the next person with a gun and ill intent is plotting to fire at people who, for whatever reason, embody the source of the anger, frustration and hate that drove them to acquire one or more assault weapons for the sole purpose of snuffing out life.
Most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, would agree that it’s a good idea to prevent individuals like this from obtaining weapons of any kind. And yet, as we see almost daily now, people in this condition keep finding ways to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Is the answer stronger gun control legislation?
Should more focus be placed on mental health and identifying individuals who are experiencing issues so severe that they feel the need to carry out murderous, attention-grabbing acts?
Under the current circumstances, is it wise for the nation to adopt a “one-or-the-other” approach?
There’s no easy answer here, no good way to fully reconcile the alarming number of Americans — mostly younger, white males — who become bent on committing acts of domestic terrorism.
We do know, and we believe many Americans agree, that this situation is simply not acceptable.
As a lone voice attending a vigil in honor of the victims of the Dayton shooting shouted during the remembrance ceremony last week, America’s leaders — the president, Republicans and Democratic members of Congress included — must “do something” to make public spaces in America safer again.
Here’s a short list of recommended steps:
Resist the powerful gun lobby and adopt sensible gun control measures.
Launch a campaign aimed at reminding people that help is available for those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, feelings of anger and even hate.
Support educational programming at all academic levels that encourages people to pursue careers as counselors and mental health professionals.
Work with local, state and federal authorities to ensure that people who are plotting mass acts of destruction on the dark web are discovered and dealt with before they start shooting into crowds.
Embrace an early warning system in public schools so that students who may be harboring bad intentions can get the attention they need before they carry out destructive plans.
Encourage people who see, hear or read something disturbing to contact authorities immediately, and be mindful of speech that has the potential to stir feelings of anger and resentment.
As the Land of the Free, America should not be a place where people fear being shot while visiting houses of worship, schools, shopping centers, stores, concerts, festivals or other public spaces.
Like the heroin crisis, America’s mass shooting epidemic warrants a proactive, intensive and multi-pronged approach. Anything less disrespects the memory of the hundreds of Americans who have been killed in mass shootings in recent years — and the survivors who will forever feel the full impact of this national crisis on a very intimate level.