A gunman walked into a [fill in the blank] today and over the span of _____ minutes killed at least [number goes here] and wounded _____ more before [pick one] killing himself/dying in a shootout with police.
Hang that sentence on your refrigerator so it's handy for the next mass shooting. Will it be weeks before we learn of the next one? Days? Hours?
This is the state of America — a drumbeat of all too familiar violence. The killer in the latest atrocity, this time at an Oregon community college, was identified as Chris Harper Mercer, 26. Though his motive remains murky, police say he was carrying five handguns and a rifle when he walked onto the campus and began, according to survivors, shooting those who said they were Christians. There will now be investigations into Mercer's background, the provenance of the guns he carried, whether he possessed them legally, whether he had a mental illness that should have flagged authorities' attention, whether, whether, whether … as the nation zeros in on a single tree in what is in reality a forest of outrageous acts.
Gun violence is a singular issue in this country, grotesquely defended by the cult of the gun and enshrouded in a romanticized interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that the Supreme Court wrongfully endorsed in its 2008 District of Columbia versus Heller decision recognizing an individual right to bear arms. It's sobering to note the Washington Post's analysis that not a calendar week has gone by in President Obama's second term that has not included at least one mass shooting (identified as four or more victims killed or injured).
ShootingTracker.com counts 375 people (including gunmen) killed and 1,089 wounded this year as of Thursday in 294 incidents in which four or more people were shot though not necessarily killed. And the carnage continues: Associated Press reports that on Thursday night in Florida, three more people were killed, including the gunman, and a fourth wounded.
Yet elected officials in state legislatures and Congress largely do nothing, clinging to a near-religious embrace of the right to bear arms in a political theater owned by gun manufacturers and their gun-worshipping acolytes. Not only is that a dereliction of the elected officials' duty to keep the American people safe, it is a horrific disregard for human life. And the shame is shared by an electorate that doesn't demand more.