A day without a deadly rampage is now a day to celebrate.
Wednesday was not such a day.
The drama unfolds and your heart goes out to the victims, slaughtered at a holiday celebration by cold-blooded assassins.
You think about the impossible struggle ahead for the loved ones they left behind — their spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters.
FOR THE RECORD
Mass shootings: In the Dec. 4 California section, a column about the San Bernardino shootings said the incident was the 355th multiple-death shooting in the country this year. It should have said San Bernardino was the 353rd mass shooting in the U.S. this year, not all of which involved deaths.
You sift through your own feelings of anger, helplessness and fear, knowing that mass shootings have happened before, certain that the world is full of fanatics who live to kill, and reminded once more that while we are all pretty safe statistically, there are no longer any safe places.
An elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn., was not safe.
A church in Charleston, S.C., was not safe.
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., was not safe.
A disability services center in San Bernardino, Calif., was not safe.
Fourteen people lost their lives, at least 21 were injured.
The San Bernardino massacre was the 355th multiple-death shooting in the country this year. Every incident is different — the narratives cover everything from personal grudges to the many cracks in the mental healthcare system.
And every incident is the same — innocent people die for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The aftermath is often the same, too. We’re reminded that no country in the world has the level of gun violence we do, which comes as no surprise when you consider we have roughly 5% of the world’s population and at least one-third of the civilian-owned firearms.
In the name of self-defense, American citizens can legally purchase enough firepower to bring down herds of elephants.
We get the same old calls for gun control, specifically assault weapons such as those used in San Bernardino to mow down the maximum possible number of human beings. But those calls always fade quietly due in large part to the gun lobby's control of Congress.
We get the same tired claims about the meaning of the right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment, along with crackpot arguments that more guns will make us safer.
And then we get another massacre.
“We see the prevalence of these kind of mass shootings in this country, and I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there’s nothing we can do about it,” President Obama said Thursday morning.
Law enforcement does what it can to ensure public safety, he said, but “it’s going to be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide they want to do somebody harm, we make it a little harder on them, because right now it’s a little too easy.”
Way too easy. But even with all the practice we’ve had, the mind has trouble accepting the horror of random violence.
So, before we knew the number of dead in San Bernardino and the identity of the killers, I wanted to think this was about a personal grievance, that it was specific to one place and one time, without political context.
But as the story takes shape, the implications are broader and scarier, and terrorism has not been ruled out. The suspected murderers, both killed in a dramatic shootout with police, were Muslim. They had traveled to the Middle East in recent years, and had a weapons stockpile that suggested they were on a mission, as law enforcement officials described it.
The existence of radicalized religious fanatics in the U.S., some of them on the radar and others not, along with the easy availability of weapons make for a frightfully unsettling combination. One in which it can’t be a total surprise when a little bit of Paris comes to San Bernardino.
So what do we do in response?
Anything but accept daily massacres as inevitable.
We refrain in the future from invading Middle Eastern countries on bogus grounds and triggering an international rise of jihadists.
We keep trying to find the right balance between tracking potential killers and protecting civil liberties.
We celebrate rather than fear American diversity, and encourage more of the kind of official Muslim response we saw from Hussam Ayloush of the Los Angeles Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injuried,” Ayloush said in a statement about San Bernardino.
“The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mind-set that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.”
And we make it a lot harder, rather than a little harder, for people to get their hands on weapons.
“I would have thought after Sandy Hook, after seeing all those children massacred, that the Congress would need nothing more to do its job, but even after that horrific tragedy, we sat idle,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said Thursday on CNN.
Schiff called for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, saying not a week goes by without a moment of silence on Capitol Hill to honor shooting victims.
“I’m tired of the moments of silence,” said Schiff.
This time, it’s a moment of silence for San Bernardino. For the injured, for the departed, and for those they left behind.
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