Mass shooting at Umpqua Community College is achingly familiar

Officers respond Thursday to a report of a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
Officers respond Thursday to a report of a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. The Associated Press

Here we are again.

The litany of school shootings is achingly, depressingly familiar to Americans numbed by this sick loop. In Roseburg, Ore., not far up I-5 from here, a person opened fire at Umpqua Community College. Early reports put the death toll at 13. Others were wounded.

Roseburg is the archetypal small American town: a pleasant downtown in a pine-tree-dotted valley landscape. The South Umpqua River runs through town, and offers some of the state’s best steelhead and bass fishing. The 3,000-student college is just north of town, on a hill overlooking the river; it is a beautiful setting.

The gun culture is ingrained in Roseburg, in Douglas County and in southern Oregon. NRA stickers and gun racks are a frequent sight. Deer and elk hunting is a common pursuit.

Oregon weathered a mass shooting at a mall in Clackamas County outside Portland in 2012, and another last year at Reynolds High School in Portland. And now this. Again.

We’ll watch the shocking reports and dreadful funerals of young lives cut short by gun violence. President Barack Obama decried the shooting and asserted that he needed partners in Congress and state legislatures to change gun control laws. Members of Congress will disagree on news programs. The NRA will deflect responsibility. And, alas, we will return to regular programming: inaction.

It will happen again and again and again, in malls, schools, in movie theaters, restaurants, churches, offices and any other place where large numbers of people gather in peace.

The president is correct. Until Congress and state legislatures do something meaningful, we will be hostages to this soul-shattering lunacy.

The question is this: How many times will we sit back and experience the déjà vu of mass carnage dealt by a madman with a firearm?

The shooter was a troubled young man who warned people the evening before the attack in an online story-telling forum that they shouldn’t attend college classes in the Northwest. He was pronounced dead at a hospital after a shootout with police, after he had killed and wounded so many others.

Columbine High School in Colorado, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton are some of the others on this too-well-traveled trail. This was the 45th school shooting this year, according the American Federation of Teachers.

It will keep happening in big cities and small towns like Roseburg, an otherwise beautiful, tranquil place. How many times do we need to watch this happen?