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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Jayne: When will it be time to talk guns?

By Greg Jayne
Published: August 11, 2019, 6:02am

How ’bout now? Is now a good time?

We have asked that before. After Sandy Hook. After Las Vegas. After Parkland. After Santa Fe, Texas. And we will keep asking until this nation does something about its appalling level of gun violence.

Because it is necessary. The United States is the only country where mass shootings are essentially a daily occurrence, and still many of our leaders are paralyzed when it comes to gun control, repeatedly insisting that now is not the time to talk about it.

So how ’bout now? How about after 22 people were murdered in a Walmart in El Paso? And after nine people and the shooter were killed at a bar in Dayton, Ohio? Those shootings occurred 13 hours apart, in different parts of the country, by madmen apparently driven by disparate motivations. And the fact that it came less than a week after three were killed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California further emphasized the United States’ absurd failure to recognize the depth of our gun violence problem.

The fact is that this has nothing to do with video games, and only a little to do with toxic ideology or mental illness. Other countries have those issues, and yet they all manage to avoid the spate of mass shootings that are routine in this nation. As a now-viral headline from The Onion said in 2014: ” ‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” When a satirical “news” outlet best captures the national zeitgeist, maybe it is time rethink how we are approaching things.

The result is that the rest of the world is viewing the United States as a banana republic. Uruguay has warned citizens about traveling to this country, advising that they “take extreme precautions in the face of growing indiscriminate violence.” Japan has warned that its nationals “should be aware of the potential for gunfire incidents everywhere in the United States.” Britain, Canada, Germany and others have warned about potential violence in the United States.

And still, we do nothing, drifting along as a leaderless ship as Republicans in power insist that all is well.

Oh, sure, President Donald Trump last week promised action, emphasizing the role that mental illness plays in mass shootings. But it must be remembered that Trump in 2017 revoked an Obama-era rule — which had not yet gone into effect — that would have made it more difficult for mentally ill people to purchase guns. And it must be remembered that there was a ban on assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 — until the law was allowed to sunset — and our civil liberties did not magically disintegrate.

The trope is that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. The absurdity of that claim is easily exposed. What if we said, “nuclear weapons don’t kill people; people kill people. So why should we care if North Korea has nuclear weapons?” Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

And yet the United States allows such arguments to take root in a society that has, by far, the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. It is not a coincidence that we also have the highest rate of mass shootings and more than 30,000 gun deaths each year.

Of course, all of this is spitting into the wind. At least until we elect leaders who are willing take action instead of pretending that nothing can be done about it.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said last week that she would consider “red-flag” legislation preventing people deemed a danger from having firearms. “Inaction isn’t an option, and I’m willing to pursue any bipartisan solution that keeps firearms out of the hands of those in mental health crisis as long as it contains strong due process protections.”

Considering that Herrera Beutler in the past has received donations from the NRA, and that she received an A rating from the organization when it used to grade lawmakers, and that she has said she has no interest in banning assault weapons, we’ll take her recent concern with a grain of salt.

And we’ll wonder how long we have to keep asking if now is a good time to talk about the issue.