Print this editorial and hang onto it for the next time someone shoots up a school or a workplace or a country-western music festival. We can fill in the blanks together as political leaders compose thoughts and prayers before doing nothing about gun violence:
Once again, a single person armed as if for military battle slaughtered the innocent and unsuspecting as ________, an act that leaves a murder-weary nation wondering what it will take for political leaders in Washington to act to protect the lives of those who elected them. This massacre, which occurred at __________, is the ____ mass shooting since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Once again, investigators are rummaging through the alleged killer's life for clues about what motivated the rampage. They're also turning up multiple red flags that, had they not been ignored, could have prevented violent thoughts from turning into a deadly deed.
One question, always, is whether the gunman obtained his firearms legally. At age ____ and with no diagnosed mental illness, ______ was able to buy his _______-caliber, _______ assault-style weapons legally in _________. Although _____'s neighbors and acquaintances said there were plenty of signals, the alleged killer had never been arrested nor was he the subject of a restraining order that might have made him ineligible to own the firearms. But in truth, such limits are too elastic to be a significant deterrent. Had _______ been ineligible to buy the weapons through a federally licensed gun shop, he could have turned to private sales at gun shows or over the internet, where background checks are not required.
Reaction to the latest massacre was swift. Congressional leaders mouthed empty words of sympathy, the NRA quieted its Twitter account, gun-control advocates howled at the moon (and with just as much effect). President Trump waited a day and then blamed the Democrats and President Obama for the killing (that doesn't make sense to us either). In truth, the best the nation gets is some initial spark of resolve and the occasional proposed reform that goes nowhere.
Meanwhile, a community mourns. Among the dead was ________, who bravely tried to step between ______ and his victims, hoping to protect them from bullets fired at a rapid rate. __________ was struck ______ times, but by throwing himself at the gunman, authorities say, he gave ________ a few extra seconds to flee. It was a heroic act, to be sure, one that likely will be mentioned at his funeral next week — a funeral that would not be occurring were it not for the easy availability of weapons of war.
Will this time be different? Will this atrocity finally spur the hard hearts in Washington to take steps to reduce the easy availability of military-style weapons? Don't hold your breath.