The tragedy in Orlando was enabled by social ills afflicting most Western democracies. Homophobia remains obstinate, even with advances in marriage equality. Self-radicalized extremists are encouraged by the swamps of the internet, here, in Europe, in Canada and elsewhere.
These viruses we know, and are fighting.
But no other Western nation tolerates such consistent outbreaks of mass shootings. The public-health epidemic of mass shootings is a scourge particular to the U.S., home to nearly one-third of the world’s mass shootings. Our rate of gun homicides is more than five times the rate as Canada. Gun homicides in England are as common as deaths from agricultural farm equipment are in the U.S.
So what do we do about them as a nation? Nothing — which President Obama said this week was a conscious decision.
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There are no easy solutions, but there are logical conclusions.
Omar Mateen legally bought a semi-automatic SIG Sauerrifle and 30-round magazines just days before the tragedy, despite the fact he’d been investigated by the FBI as a suspected terrorist. That investigation ended in 2014 and Mateen wasn’t put on a terrorist “no-fly” watch list. But even if he had been, he still could’ve bought the rifle because Congress is committed to do nothing.
A logical step to address mass shootings is to renew the assault-style-weapons ban that expired in 2004 under President George W. Bush’s watch. It was so full of loopholes and exemptions it did not reduce overall gun violence, but the number of mass shootings plunged when it was in effect and more than doubled when it expired.
A lead researcher on the federally funded study of the ban has said it would likely have become increasingly effective had it remained in place longer than 10 years because so many existing weapons and high-capacity magazines were grandfathered in.
Restrictions must be enacted with the Second Amendment in mind. But the constitutional balance today is askew, tilting wildly away from public safety and common sense.”
Restrictions must be enacted with the Second Amendment in mind. But the constitutional balance today is askew, tilting wildly away from public safety and common sense. The common denominator among the grisly roll call of mass shootings — San Bernardino, Calif., Roseburg, Ore., Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo., and now Orlando — is a light, accurate, rapid-firing weapon designed to kill humans.
There is also no reason that high-capacity magazines should be readily sold. Listen to the videos shot inside the Pulse nightclub: pop pop pop pop, in astonishingly rapid, deadly succession. Mateen sprayed the room without pausing to reload.
In contrast, watch the video from the Seattle Pacific University shooting in 2014. When the perpetrator had to pause to reload his shotgun, a heroic student, John Meis, tackled and disarmed him. High-capacity magazines act like a deadly accelerant on a fire, boosting the body counts.
Both these restrictions are supported by a majority of Americans, according to a poll last year. We also know that Congress is captured by the extreme obstructionist rhetoric of the National Rifle Association and is no more likely to pass new restrictions after the killings of 49 adults in Orlando than it was after the massacre of 20 first-graders in Newtown.
But voters must not stand mute as, once again, Congress ignores the virus of mass shooting in favor of little more than a moment of silence and empty words.