One of five Marines killed by a gunman at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee was set to be laid to rest Friday in Nashville, where he leaves behind a wife and two children.
The night before, in Lafayette, Louisiana, a man entered a movie theater with a handgun, opening fire 20 minutes into a showing of “Trainwreck.” Three people are dead, including the gunman, and nine were injured.
Hours earlier, jurors in Aurora, Colorado, weighed the death penalty for James Holmes, who brought a machine gun to a midnight screening of the “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012, killing 12 and injuring 58. The day before that, Dylann Roof was indicted on federal hate crime charges after killing nine Churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.
Marysville, Washington. The Washington Navy Yard. Santa Monica, California. Newtown, Connecticut. Fort Hood, Texas. Binghamton, New York. Virginia Tech.
With mass shootings and their aftermath gripping four states in as many days, it’s time to acknowledge that this is the new normal: The U.S. is becoming a nation of towns best known for horrors perpetrated with guns. Playgrounds are erected to memorialize the mass shooting of children in their classrooms, while workers are trained on how to react to active shooter situations.
An estimated 30,000 Americans die each year by guns. People in the U.S. are now more likely to die by gun violence than in motor vehicle accidents. There are nearly as many guns in the United States as there are men, women, and children and the gun homicide rate is triple the rate seen in the rest of the world’s wealthy nations.
“We wish we could say what happened in Lafayette is unthinkable. But it is not,” former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords said in a statement. It’s been four years since she survived an assassination attempt outside a shopping mall in Tucson, which killed six others including one of her aides and a 9-year-old girl.
In the wake of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 first-graders and six educators were shot to death, President Obama vowed gun reform. But the powerful gun lobby and pro-gun lawmakers scuttled Obama’s attempts to institute any reasonable reforms. Gun advocates said the focus must be on the perpetrators, not the weapons they use to kill by the dozen, but Congress has largely ignored legislation on that, too. The research that might further possible legislation is lacking, too, because the gun lobby blocks it.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, said Friday evening that “now is not the time” to discuss gun control measures when asked what he would do to prevent shooting tragedies if he were in the White House. “Let us mourn, you can ask me this in a couple days, but not here not now.”
In an interview with the BBC this week, Obama expressed regret that he has been unable to make much headway on the problem.
“You mentioned the issue of guns. That is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings,” Obama said.
Added Lonnie Phillips, the father of one of the girls murdered in Aurora, “It’s almost unbelievable that we can’t get anything done in this country that can stop this insanity. You just shake your head and wonder how this can continue on in our country.”
Sixteen years ago, the nation said “never again” after two high school students gunned down 15 people and injured 24 others in Columbine High School in Colorado.
“Because of what you have endured, you can help us build that kind of future, as virtually no one else can. You can reach across all the political and racial and cultural lines that divide us,” then-President Bill Clinton told them. “You can give us a culture of values instead of a culture of violence. You can help us to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
There have been 46 mass shootings since.