Did you hear about the awful shooting the other day?
It was bad enough when that phrase could be uttered at least once a month. What’s horrifying now is that we can’t even ask that question, at least not without a follow-up explanation. There have been three page-one headline-worthy shootings in recent days, any one of which could be used as a rallying point for some sort of popular or legislative response to the spate of gun violence.
A gunman killed a student and wounded two others at a small Seattle college last week, saying in a journal found by police that he went off his medications because he "wanted to feel the hate" before the rampage. "I just want people to die and I wanna die with them!" accused gunman Aaron Ybarra wrote. He didn’t – a student bravely stopped Ybarra, not with a good-guy gun used against the bad-guy gunman, but with pepper spray. Ybarra is under suicide watch, which feels like a metaphor for a nation facing gun tragedy after gun tragedy.
On Friday, a man opened fire outside a Georgia courthouse, wounding a deputy before being shot dead himself.
On Sunday, a Nevada couple, heavily armed, burst into a CiCi’s Pizza in Las Vegas, yelling "this is a revolution!" and started shooting. They shot dead two police officer who were in the restaurant having lunch, and stripped the slain officers of their weapons. They then went to a Wal-Mart, where they again threatened people and declared a revolution. A brave shopper – this one with a concealed weapon of his own – approached the couple to stop them. He didn’t succeed. He was shot dead, and the woman in the couple, after the two barricaded themselves in Wal-Mart merchandise, shot her husband and then herself.
On Tuesday, a teenager armed with a rifle shot a student dead and wounded a teacher, then himself died (whether by his own gun or in gunfire exchanged with police not yet clear). It was the 74th school shooting since the Sandy Hook elementary school rampage – the murders of schoolchildren in December, 2012 that had the naïve among us thinking that Congress would take some kind of action to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and mentally ill people.
The spate of shootings almost makes one forget the misogynistic killing spree a California man went on the weekend before last. It sounds almost like ancient history, replaced by new video of horrified onlookers and victims,
President Obama expressed his distress with the situation, calling it "stunning" that Congress has failed to do something about it. (Lawmakers couldn’t even agree to expand background checks for Internet gun purchases.) Obama called it his "greatest frustration" that society has refused to take measures to control gun violence. The U.S., the president reminded people in a q-and-a session, is "the only developed country on earth where this happens and it happens now once a week, and it’s a one-day story." True, famously non-violent Canada just had a horrible shooting of law enforcement (is this why Sen. Ted Cruz just renounced his Canadian citizenship?), but America indeed stands out as a place where gun violence has become almost accepted, just an expected story on the daily news feed. It’s almost as common as stories about Congress being unable or unwilling to agree on legislation.
The cynical prophesies of gun control (or even just gun safety) advocates after the failed background check expansion effort in 2013 are sadly true: If a bunch of elementary schoolers getting gunned down in their own school is not going to move Congress, nothing will. Meantime, we wait for the next shooting.