It’s now as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
The mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., was just another reminder of who we are.
After myriad tragedies of gun violence in America — at a school, church, concert, store or location anywhere from sea to shining sea — we hear the same claim: “This is not who we are.”
It is who we are in the American shooting gallery.
What happened in Highland Park wasn’t some isolated incident. More than 220 people were shot and killed over the Fourth of July weekend. And that weekend wasn’t that different from others this year. There have been 315 mass shootings across the nation since Jan. 1. That number will be higher by the time you read this. There have been some 22,500 deaths caused by gunfire.
The frequency of mass shootings is uniquely American. No other country experiences this. It is who we are.
The main reason for these shootings isn’t that America has more mental problems than any other country. Does anyone really believe there are no mentally unstable people in Britain, Australia and all the other countries where mass shootings are rare? No, the main reason is the unchecked proliferation here of guns, specifically of assault-style rifles, weapons of war, the weapons of choice of the mass murderers.
Sure, we need better care for the mentally ill. Yes, some tragedies could be prevented by the recent legislation to promote red-flag laws for intervention in cases where someone is a serious danger.
But when someone wanting to commit mass murder can easily get an assault-style rifle and high-capacity magazines for quickly firing over 70 rounds at spectators at a parade, the reason is clear.
Robert Crimo III was “a law-abiding citizen” when he bought the rifle used at the parade. At least he was in the terms used by those who insist on no restrictions for gun purchases by “law-abiding citizens.” He had no felony conviction then.
He wasn’t yet 21. So what? Congress just declined to set that age as a requirement for purchase of one of those weapons of war that so eviscerate the facial features of victims that it’s difficult to identify them. If there had been a more extensive background check, could reasons have been found to block his purchase? Maybe. But background checks have been weakened with loopholes. Quick purchase is allowed if nothing is immediately uncovered. That’s the work of gun lobbyists. They are interested in protecting sales of expensive assault-style rifles with a huge profit. Saving anything else is not their interest.
Even getting provision for encouraging states to pass red-flag laws was tough, especially in the House, where so many members feared that anything displeasing to the NRA could hurt chances of re-election.
Opposition to halting the sales of military-style rifles designed for killing humans in combat is stirred by the slippery-slope argument: If they ban sales of assault rifles, next they’ll come to take away all of your guns. Nonsense. Could you imagine the Supreme Court now going along with anything involving taking away Second Amendment rights ingrained in court decisions?
The Supreme Court, however, has said that some restrictions on types of weapons could be approved by Congress. For example, machine guns are banned.
After all, the Founding Fathers didn’t in their debates on the Constitution ever insist that semi-automatic muskets with high-capacity magazines would be essential for a well-regulated militia.
Sales of weapons of war increase. Frequency of their use as though in war increases, too. States like Indiana even do away with permits to carry a gun.
This is America. This is who we are:
Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and shoot away.
Jack Colwell is a columnist for The Tribune. Write to him in care of The Tribune or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.