Can we talk about it? Now? Finally?
Can we discuss why mass shootings are a daily occurrence in this country? That’s not an exaggeration. As of the shooting in Roseburg, Ore., there had been 274 days in 2015 and, according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there had been 294 mass shootings (four or more people killed or wounded) in the United States. Which is only the third most head-scratching statistic of the past week, ranking behind this one: People ages 15 to 24 in this country are more likely to die by gunfire than in a car accident; and this one: There are more guns than people in the United States.
All of this, of course, follows in the wake of a gunman killing nine people at Umpqua Community College. That launched a predictable cycle of anger and recriminations and politicization and ultimately … nothing. Which I suppose is the biggest aggravation of all.
So let’s talk. Let’s talk about the insanity of America’s gun culture, the kind that led the Roseburg shooter’s mother to build an arsenal of weapons to which her mentally troubled son had access. Some reports have said she stocked up out of concern that President Obama would pursue gun-control legislation. Good idea; what could possibly go wrong?
Or let’s talk about a Congress that in 1996 passed legislation to prevent federal funding from being used to research gun violence. We spend millions studying the habitat of the sage grouse, but we can’t study gun violence? Does that make sense? Not to the man who wrote the legislation; former Rep. James Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, last week told the Huffington Post: “I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time. I have regrets.”
Or let’s talk about our mental health system, the one that will be essential to stemming the tide of mass shootings. Except that many of the people who are most concerned about the government coming to take their guns are the same people who are most opposed to an expansion of public health services such as Medicaid.