In its first front-page editorial in nearly a century, The New York Times on Saturday issued a scathing rebuke of America's gun culture, calling it "a moral outrage and national disgrace" that mass shootings like the one that left 14 people dead this week in San Bernardino, California, can happen with such frequency.
"It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency," reads the staff editorial. "These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection."
Law enforcement officials are still trying to determine an exact motive for why two suspects – 28-year-old Syed Farook and 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik – stormed a social services center on Wednesday and opened fire on civilians with two .223-caliber assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns. By the end of the shooting rampage, 14 people were dead and 21 injured.
But though many questions still remain, including whether Wednesday's massacre was connected to international terrorism, The New York Times editorial board insisted this uncertainty should not be an excuse for inaction.
"[M]otives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places," states the editorial, noting the locations of several other horrific mass shootings that took place in the past eight years. "The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms."
Saturday's editorial comes two days after Republican lawmakers voted down several Democrat-sponsored gun control amendments in the Senate on Thursday. The New York Daily News similarly delivered a hard hit this week at GOP politicians who readily express their prayers for shooting victims, but consistently block efforts to tighten gun regulations.
“God Isn’t Fixing This," read the Daily News' front page on Thursday. A day later, the paper's cover labeled Farook "a terrorist," but said that so were four other alleged mass killers, as well as NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, whom the Daily News credited with killing "countless" gun laws.
Chris Cox, the NRA's executive director, wrote a defiant op-ed for USA Today on Thursday, saying the organization would "neither accept the blame for the acts of murderers, nor apologize for fighting for our right to defend ourselves against them.”
The last time The New York Times ran an editorial on its front page was in June, 1920, in response to the nomination of Warren G. Harding as the Republican presidential candidate. In a statement released Friday, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., The Times' publisher, said the paper decided to run a front-page editorial for the first time in 95 years in order "to deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country's inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns."
“Even in this digital age, the front page remains an incredibly strong and powerful way to surface issues that demand attention,” Sulzberger said. “And, what issue is more important than our nation’s failure to protect its citizens?”