Enough post-mortem prayers. Daily mass shootings should be a wake-up call for America | Opinion

Second Amendment

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February 2 came and went this year with little notice—that is, all except for the residents of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and their most famous citizen.

The chubby little groundhog— “Phil,” as he’s been called from the very beginning—is the only reason anyone has heard of Punxsutawney. Like so many other obscure towns, ones only known to their own residents and a smattering of travelers stopping for gas, it was an unlikely spot for fame. And yet, most Americans can pronounce the town’s name, and they know why it’s so famous.

Every year, at the beginning of February, people anxiously watch their TVs and newspapers to view one of our country’s oldest traditions: Groundhog Day. The system is simple. The furry Phil comes out of his hole, and everyone watches, breathlessly, to see if the darling rodent will be scared by his own shadow.

One of two things will happen: If he sees that shadow, farmers will have to delay planting their crops and women will be forced to leave pastel dresses in their closets, understanding that more snow and cold will surely come. If he doesn’t, the coast is clear, and everyone can start getting their bathing suits out of their mothball-protected cedar chests.

This year, Phil saw his shadow, so everyone knew that there would be six more weeks of winter and that they’d be forced to hunker down by their hearths until it was over.


Of course, there will be detractors. Some people think groundhogs are generally unreliable forecasters—although Phil’s record of accuracy certainly rivals that of a 1952 radio forecaster. While Punxsutawney’s residents claim that Phil is a proven scientific phenomenon and that he’s always right, the truth is that he’s only correct about 50% of the time. And what can anyone expect, considering he doesn’t have a college degree?

On Feb. 2, with the news teams gathered and telecasters standing by, the little guy came out of his hole and immediately saw his shadow. That, of course, scared him almost to death, and he returned to the safety and solitude of his home.

The tradition of Groundhog Day, along with its questionable forecasting, inspired the 1993 movie by that name. Played by Bill Murray, the film was about Phil Connors, a journalist who truly loathed his assignment to, once again, cover the Punxsutawney festivities. Stuck in town by a snowstorm, the narcissistic protagonist somehow gets stalled in an endless 8-track-type loop, in which every day is repeated exactly as the last.

Connors, with the help of his news producer Rita Hanson (played by Andie MacDowell) finally figures out that he has to change both his attitudes and his behavior in order to get out of the loop. It works, and his life—now with his true love—goes on in a forward, positive mode.

Just one day before this year’s Groundhog Day, a gunman in Washington, D.C., shot four people on the city’s transit system. There would have been more casualties, but bystanders had been able to subdue the gunman to avert a greater toll.

All told, the 2023 total of mass shootings in the U.S. has averaged more than one incident per day. There have been over 200 of these tragedies since New Year’s Eve, with a total of 1,068 casualties, including 276 dead. It seems that 2023 is going to see a record harvest of victims for the Grim Reaper.

And, much like the scenario in the Groundhog Day movie, it is only our decisive action, in changing our attitudes and behavior, that can solve the problem.

I hear our leaders—and particularly the flag-waving rednecks—gushing their commitments to providing better gun-sales screening and funding for mental health programs, asserting that these will surely have a positive effect in reducing the number and frequency of these attacks. I say B.S.!

I don’t believe for a moment that those people actually believe there’s any solution other than eliminating the public sale of assault rifles. The guns are out there and as long as they are, we can expect our loved ones and children to come into the crosshairs of the mentally unsound, the angry and the disenfranchised. It’s not a riddle, the answer is simple; but the Second Amendment and the interests of the NRA and gun manufacturers will always ensure that there are plenty of victims for us to mourn.

Frankly, it’s ridiculous to think that there’s any American who doesn’t understand why mass shootings plague our country, day after day after day.

While God is getting tired of the outpourings of post-mortem prayers solicited by governors and legislators—instead of taking affirmative gun-control action—the senseless killings keep occurring. God can’t stop the bloodshed, and he’s not about to bring the dead back.

It is high time to call on America’s leaders to take the necessary steps for strong gun control legislation. Anything short of that is an invitation to remain “stuck in the loop” of more violence and more deaths.

The author is a retired novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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