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Monday, February 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

It’s past time to talk about gun violence

On June 12, 2016, a madman killed 49 people and wounded scores of others at an Orlando nightclub in what was then the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Too soon to talk gun control,” said politicians, shortly after the carnage. Then month by month slipped by with no changes.

In June 2016, there were 31 mass shootings (defined as four or more people injured or killed in a single event at the same time and location), according to a New York Times compilation. In July 2016, there were 49 mass shootings; in August 2016, 42; September 2016, 32; October 2016, 31; November 2016, 36; December 2016, 27; January 2017, 31; February, 25; March, 22; April, 39; May, 23; June, 35; July, 36; August, 33, and last month, 27.

On the first day of this month, there were two mass shootings: Three people were killed and two were injured when gunfire erupted downtown early Sunday morning in Lawrence, Kansas.

But that news was overwhelmed by what would happen that night in Las Vegas: 58 dead and 515 injured.

It’s difficult to comprehend such numbers. There wasn’t a single day in the Iraq War where that many American troops were killed or wounded. So while it’s a cliché to say the scenes of mass shootings are “like a war zone,” it’s an appropriate description for that concert venue, where 22,000 fans were easy prey for a solitary man with a vast arsenal.

After the shooting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “There will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in.”

Too soon. Again.

She also praised the people who took heroic measures to help each other: “The memory of those who displayed the ultimate expression of love in the midst of an unimaginable act of hate will never fade.”

But, if this mass shooting is like the rest, the call for policy changes will fade, as will the anger, sadness and grief until someone opens fire again.

A total of 477 days and 521 mass shootings occurred between the Orlando massacre and Las Vegas one. During that span, Congress hasn’t take a single substantive step aimed at heading off the next one. The three worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred in the past 10 years, and that’s not including what is arguably the saddest: 20 elementary school students and six adults mowed down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

It was after that tragedy that it looked as if there would be policy movement on this uniquely American public safety issue. But even a President Obama-era rule that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun was rescinded in February. One step forward; one step back.

Like the heroes who assisted one another after the shooting, it’s the American people who will have to step up if they want to stem the wave of mass shootings.

It’s not too soon to start.

Let your representatives know that “thoughts and prayers” and lowering flag to half staff are no longer enough. Demand action.

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