Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020

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Jayne: We need action on gun control

By , Columbian Opinion Editor
Published:

Did you see the photo? Read the story? Ponder how and why the scourge of an active shooter arrived Thursday in Vancouver and how close to home is too close?

The photo was poignant, with police carrying a wounded victim out of Smith Tower and only the victim’s bare feet being visible. It landed on the front page of The Columbian’s Friday edition.

The words were equally powerful, with the paper’s first-day story reading: “Teams of four officers, holding the victims’ arms and legs, carried them out the front door — one appeared to be dead. The injured victims were tended to in the building’s parking lot until paramedics arrived and transported them to the hospital.”

Imagine. One minute you are minding your own business in the lobby of the building; the next you are being carried out and set down in a parking lot. This is what we have become — an endless string of nameless, faceless, innocent victims of America’s absurd gun culture being carried out by our limbs.

Except that they are not nameless or faceless. Court proceedings Friday identified the survivors — 73-year-old Enelia Montoya and her caretaker, 44-year-old Shawne L. Garris. The murdered man also was identified, but as of this writing, The Columbian is withholding his name pending family notification. You’ll probably know it by the time you read this.

And you’ll probably have questions. About motive. About how and why the suspect had a gun. About whether this could have been prevented. Those will need to be asked and answered to the best of our ability.

But we also should be asking how a supposedly civilized society can have nearly 40,000 gun deaths each year. That is the question that speaks to our humanity and to this nation’s obsession with firearms and to the unavoidable fact that sooner or later that obsession hits close to home. Too close. So close that we can recognize the buildings being shown on national TV and think about the countless times we have driven or walked past them.

This wasn’t Las Vegas or El Paso or the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, with scores of deaths. It wasn’t Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech or Parkland, Fla. For that we are thankful. We also are thankful for the first responders, who button-holed the suspect and prevented any more bloodshed.

And yet we weep for a nation in which a shooting that left one dead and two wounded is considered fortunate. We mourn for a nation in which there have been nearly 350 mass shootings this year.

The United States has by far the most guns per capita of any developed nation. We have more civilian-owned guns than civilians — a lot more. And so it is no surprise that we have more gun deaths than any developed country. Some people dispute these numbers; fair enough, we can dig into the weeds of the statistics at some other time. But even if you dispute the notion that the United States has more gun violence than other countries, that does not answer the question of why we don’t do anything about it.

Is this acceptable? Is it acceptable for a man to walk into a senior residence in Vancouver and shoot three people? Is it merely the price of freedom for somebody to kill 22 people and wound 24 more in El Paso, or should we be better than this? Offering nothing more than thoughts and prayers is to abdicate responsibility and to succumb to the absurd idea that all of this is somehow normal.

Yet that is what we have done. Even after 20 school children were murdered in Sandy Hook and 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Fla., we have allowed our leaders to give lip-service to gun control until the issue fades into the background. And then we cling to our guns and blame video games for the carnage while pretending that all of this is normal.

But it is not normal. And it is not healthy to suggest that any of this is unavoidable or acceptable. And until we elect leaders who have courage, we will continue to see too many Americans carried out of buildings by their limbs.

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