Our Opinion: Mass shootings can't ever become mundane
Devin Patrick Kelley, dressed in all-black tactical gear, stepped into First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and proceeded to spray the congregation with gunfire. The youngest killed was a 17-month-old girl. The oldest was a 77. Nearly half those killed were children. Kelley would later be found dead, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
And yes, he was armed with military-style weaponry. Just as Stephen Paddock was when he rained bullets down onto concertgoers in Las Vegas on October 1, killing 58 people and injuring 546. Just as Omar Mateen was when he killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Just as Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were when they killed 14 people and injured 22 others in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. Just like Adam Lanza was when he fatally shot 20 children and six adults on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut. These weapons are not designed for hunting or for protection but to kill many people quickly. That they have done once again.
It's not reassuring to hear that Kelley should not have had access to firearms, according to Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a long-time foe of gun control measures. Kelley allegedly bought an assault rifle used in the killing in April of last year, two years after he had been court-martialed by the Air Force. He served a year in prison and received a bad conduct discharge in 2014 for assault on his spouse and assault on their child, according to news reports.
President Trump's response was to proclaim that the shooting wasn't "a guns situation" but a "mental health problem at the highest level." Kelley may or may not have been mentally ill, but the U.S. is unique among civilized nations in the ease in which demented, angry or embittered people (usually white men) can readily get guns or assault weapons. However, if people with documented mental illness can be prevented permanently from acquiring guns that would constitute progress.
On Friday, Massachusetts enacted a ban on so-called bump stocks, which enabled the shooter in Las Vegas to turn his semi-automatic firearm into a veritable machine gun. We were the first state to do so. Talk about doing so at a federal level proved to be just that — talk.
It is plain that this country needs to ban not just bump stocks but military-style weapons and large-capacity gun clips. As long as the GOP remains the party in power, this is unlikely to happen, even though the majority of Americans support it according to polls. Guns, however, can be far more strongly regulated than they are now in America. This would not be counter to Supreme Court rulings on guns or the Second Amendment, which begins with the words "A well-regulated..."
Until measures are taken at the federal level, the easy availability of terrifyingly effective weaponry to people who should not have access to them will continue. So will the murder of innocent people — including, as was the case in a small church in a small Texas town — children.
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