Another day, another loaded gun carried by a disturbed young man, another person shot to death. Once again we’re confronted by an epidemic of gun violence denied by too many.
This time it was at Los Angeles International Airport – a firearm murder Friday that snarled air traffic across America and panicked thousands of people trapped within an airport terminal.
The video footage of passengers racing through LAX with fear in their eyes is an image illustrative of our times.
I’ve been through that airport so many times I could easily imagine myself running for dear life with the names of my loved ones welled in my throat.
Who couldn’t imagine it?
Our public places have so often become terror chambers where the mundane morphs into the unthinkable with the speed of a bullet.
But fresh blood won’t be enough to change our gun narrative.
It’s no match for the political muscle of the National Rifle Association, its millions of dollars and the fortress of gun-rights dogma it has erected.
What happened at LAX could happen anywhere. It does happen anywhere.
But it’s still a not a problem, right? We can’t even consider that it’s way too easy to get a gun?
A gun is just a tool, right?
That’s the NRA talking point of choice now. It’s a deliberate misuse of language to equate instruments of death with a word also associated with a rake or a shovel.
More than 10,000 people haven’t been killed with shovels since the Newtown massacre in December 2012.
However, more than 10,000 people have been killed with guns since then. Slate Magazine and @gundeaths on Twitter have kept a tally and document each death each day.
On Nov. 1, Gerardo I. Hernandez, the first Transportation Security Agency officer killed in the line of duty since TSA’s founding after 9/11, was not the only gun fatality in America.
There was a man shot dead in Leigh Acres, Fla., and another in Houston, La. A woman was shot dead in Port Arthur, Texas, and another in San Diego. Edward Gwinner, 28, was shot dead in Ypsilanti, Mich. – and Shane Lee Ballenger, 23, in Algona, Iowa.
I could keep going, but what’s the point? I’m wondering how many people will search Google for stabbing deaths, cite them to me and ask if I want to ban kitchen knives? Or how about cars? People get drunk and kill people in cars, and we don’t ban the cars.
I’ve had so many people leave that question on my voicemail it’s as if they are speaking off the same script.
In fact, they are. It’s the gun advocates’ default setting of denial.
How about a discussion of raising the bar of gun ownership? Why don’t we close the loopholes that prevent background checks on guns and ammunition purchased at gun shows and on the Internet?
James Holmes, the accused killer in Aurora, Colo., amassed an arsenal with a few clicks of his computer – and didn’t raise a single red flag.
Background checks for some gun sales became law in 1993 via the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The law was named after James Brady, the former Ronald Reagan press secretary shot in the head by a mentally unstable gunman seeking to assassinate Reagan in 1981.
“Since the Brady Law was enacted 20 years ago, background checks have prevented more than 2 million gun sales to ‘prohibited purchasers’ – like convicted felons and domestic abusers,” wrote Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in the Huffington Post. “But 40percent of commercial gun sales, mainly at gun shows and online, happen without a simple Brady background check to make sure the purchaser is not a criminal or dangerously mentally ill. That’s thousands of unchecked sales every day, and guns that could wind up in dangerous hands.”
If you were truly a law-abiding citizen, why would you fear background checks on all guns sales?
This question usually drives gun deniers to their next shell game – the assertion that what we have is a mental health crisis and not a gun crisis.
We do have a mental health crisis. We are impeded by myriad privacy laws related to mental health that contribute to dangerous individuals emerging virtually unseen from the shadows with weapons drawn.
Mental health budgets have been slashed by states, while private insurers don’t provide enough coverage for mental health issues. There aren’t enough legislators like Sacramento Democrat Darrell Steinberg, California’s Senate president pro tem, who has championed mental health issues but gotten very little coverage for this work.
But sooner or later, the road leads back to a need for more responsible gun ownership. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter who killed his mother and massacred 20 children at an elementary school, clearly had mental health issues.
Yet it’s also true – and hasn’t been said enough – that his late mother was clearly wrong to keep a number of weapons within his reach.
There are serious, unanswered questions related to how the 12-year-old shooter in suburban Reno so easily got the gun that he used to kill on a school day.
I’ve spoken to law enforcement officials who balk at supporting gun bans, but who could see supporting laws that forced people to be far more responsible in how they stored their guns.
What about mandating that if you’re going to buy a gun, you have to buy a gun safe to store it? What about stiffer laws to punish parents whose children used family guns to kill – if law enforcement determined they were negligent in storing their weapons?
This conversation never happens. Compromise and responsibility are drowned out by calls to ban pitchforks or rakes instead.
So I end it here just as I ended the last gun column after the Nevada killings two weeks ago: It’s going to happen again. Somewhere. Everywhere. The crisis can’t be denied.