America appears stuck in a devastating pattern when it comes to mass shootings.
It begins with a disturbed gunman, bloodshed and then overwhelming grief over the loss of so many innocent lives.
Next comes the outrage. Then the questions start. Were there warning signs the shooter was about to unhinge? If there were, why were they missed? What can we do to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future?
Inevitably, a contentious debate eventually ensues over limiting gun sales, Second Amendment rights, and the desperate need for more mental health services.
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People look to their lawmakers for answers. Ideas are tossed out, but anything that raises the ire of the National Rifle Association is typically squelched.
Some progressive steps may be taken in pockets around the country, but overall the discussion – as hot as it was – eventually dies down and nothing changes.
Until, that is, another massacre starts the horrific cycle all over again.
This has to stop.
In the wake of the shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, where 17 lives were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we have been inundated with Letters to the Editor devoted to the topic of gun violence.
That’s a good sign. It means people care.
In our print edition today, we decided to devote our Opinion page solely to this important topic, and we are publishing as many letters as we can that are related to it. We have so many, some will have to run later in the week.
There are no easy answers to this murderous pattern we have seen repeated year after year. But perhaps this time, at the very least, we can keep the conversation going.
Mounting pressure already has helped push some changes.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that prohibits the sale and use of bump stocks, a tool that was used in the Las Vegas strip shooting last year that claimed 58 lives and injured hundreds more.
Several corporate leaders have announced their stores will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21. They include Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Fred Meyer and L.L. Bean.
Mid-Columbia school officials are looking at ways to beef up security in every school building in their districts. Allowing teachers to arm themselves has been suggested, although the idea is considered controversial.
While community leaders, business executives and state legislators around the country are taking steps to address gun violence, what we really need is a comprehensive approach from the federal government.
Unfortunately, a 1996 Congressional amendment restricts the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using money to research gun control issues.
That amendment was sponsored by the late Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Arkansas, who later admitted he made a mistake, and changed his position on the issue.
Dickey once noted the U.S. government had spent millions a year on traffic safety research, but almost nothing on gun safety research and its effect on public health.
Now there is an effort underway to repeal the Dickey Amendment, which would be a good first step.
The goal should be to find a way to prevent future mass shootings, while at the same time preserve the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
In the meantime, we need to tell Congress we have had enough stalling — and we need to send that message over and over again — until we finally break the heart-wrenching, mass shooting cycle plaguing our country.