Our Opinion: America can't shrug and accept gun violence


The reaction to America's latest high-profile gun incidents indicate weary acceptance of them as business as usual. That is a dangerous attitude.

Prom night was married in the small northern Wisconsin town of Antigo late Saturday night when an 18-year-old graduate who had apparently been bullied when he was a student opened fire on two students leaving the event. Their injuries were not severe and the suspect, Jakob Wagner, was shot and killed by a police officer.

Mr. Wagner, who was apparently carrying a high-powered rifle and a large ammunition clip, would likely have done considerable damage if he had gone into the prom. Police officers happened to have been patrolling the school's parking lot at the time of the incident, and they were able to confront and shoot the suspect right after he began shooting. Reports indicate the reaction in the community is gratitude given that the incident could have been much worse.

That is an understandable reaction, but the reality is that the school got lucky, as the police officers only happened to be outside the building by chance. The community should be demanding to know how an 18-year-old was able to get a high-powered weapon and the ammunition to go with it. And no, the answer is not the arming of prom dates in anticipation of such an event. A shoot-out among high schoolers is a recipe for video-game level carnage.

In rural Piketon, Ohio, eight members of one family were shot to death last week in what police describe as an "execution style" assault. The presence of a fairly ambitious marijuana growing operation led to speculation that the deaths were the result was a drug sales dispute.

With the shooters still at large as of Monday, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader not only advised remaining family members to arm themselves — he advised anyone in the county who felt threatened to arm themselves. It is hoped that the sheriff's panicky advice won't lead to more deaths at the hands of trigger-happy residents who "feel threatened," which has become the default excuse for police officers and vigilantes like George Zimmerman who gun down unarmed black men. Sheriff Reader's advice should have been to let duly elected and appointed law authorities pursue the killers.

The Ohio massacre and the latest shooting by a disgruntled teenager provide the latest regular reminders that there are far too many guns in America. Passing laws making it more difficult to buy weapons is not a violation of the Second Amendment, which doesn't preclude gun regulations. If cars, food, medicine and anything else that poses a potential threat can be regulated there is certainly no reason why weapons cannot be.

The answer is not more armed Americans or over-reactions (see editorial below), and it is not enough to be grateful for blind luck, as was the case in Wisconsin. The answer is tougher gun regulation at all levels of government.


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