OPINION — The danger is that we’ll become numb to it all. On Sunday morning, another multiple shooting took place, this time in Texas. Three dead. Three more in Kenosha, Wis.. Saturday night. At the time this column was written, little more was known. Shooters are at large in both states. The suspect in Texas is a sheriff’s detective accused of sexually assaulting a child.
Sunday’s shootings don’t count (yet) as mass shootings because only three people in each shooting are known to have been shot, all of them perished. (The government defines mass shooting as one in which four or more are wounded or killed.) There have been 126 mass shootings in 2021 (148 fatalities) from January through March. This does not include the Fed-X shootings. There have been 16 deaths in mass shootings since April 1.
Three weeks ago, I used this space to describe what I believed was the general sentiments about gun control legislation in fly-over country (the country’s midsection from North Dakota to Texas.) I suggested in that column that people in this part of the country are weary of the debate over what to do about gun violence. Most of us believe that if government actually enforced the laws currently on the books, there would be many fewer mass shooting deaths in the U.S.
I have for many years believed we don’t need more gun laws, we need to enforce the ones we already have. But, many of the shooters have gained access to their weapons legally. Clearly, people who have no business owning a gun, are receiving them. I struggle with this.
Every Saturday morning at this time of year, I go fly-fishing with a friend with whom I share many political opinions. The conversations we have over coffee and flashback pheasant tail nymphs have on more than one occasion inspired the words you read in this space on Mondays.
We have different backgrounds. He served in Vietnam. I was too young (barely). His degree is in engineering. Mine is in journalism. He has applied his degree as a government employee. I have not. We have both owned and operated successful businesses. We both have children, and grandchildren. He grew up in the eastern United States. I grew up in fly-over country, in South Dakota, Colorado and Kansas.
Yet, we agree on much. We agree on the Second Amendment and the right of law-abiding citizens to keep (own) and carry arms. Most recently our Saturday morning conversations have turned to gun control, mass shootings, law enforcement officers who kill people through a lack of training, malice and/or incompetence.
We have struggled with the mass shooting issue more than with incompetent or malicious law enforcement killing citizens. We agree the law enforcement issue can be diminished with more training and better efforts to identify and weed out officers who should not serve.
But how do we deal with mass shooters? What do you do about mentally unstable people who legally purchase a gun and then use it to kill many people quickly? We agree the most efficient way to reduce these shootings is for the government to once again declare and enforce a ban on what have become known as assault weapons. That means a ban on the manufacture, sale and ownership transfer of any such weapon.
Under the current American political climate, such a ban is as impossible as it is repulsive. In this part of the country in particular, people (voters) will resist such action, and they will let their representatives in congress and the Senate know their jobs may depend upon where they stand on such a ban.
I believe the greatest danger is that these shootings will become so commonplace that we won’t really notice them when they happen – until they happen to us.
Michael Sanborn writes from Rapid City.
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