America again finds itself struggling with familiar pain and disgust in the wake of mass shootings that took place over the Aug. 3 weekend. The killings have become too frequent in occurrence. The rhetoric, in their aftermath, too predictable.
Around 10 a.m. local time Saturday, a 21-year-old man opened fire at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart retail store, killing 20 and injuring more than two dozen others. Police quickly responded and were able to apprehend the suspect before more innocents were harmed.
The shooter reportedly posted online a manifesto with rants about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” minutes before setting out on his killing spree. Based on those he killed or injured compared to those who say he let them pass, it’s clear the shooter chose targets by race.
Across the country hours later a 24-year-old man with a semi-automatic rifle and clad in body armor sprayed bullets into a crowd out for an evening of fun at one of Dayton, Ohio’s popular entertainment locations.
This shooter took the lives of nine, including his own sister, injuring dozens more before being shot and killed by responding law enforcement. Investigators said he had expressed desire to commit such a shooting before. He also was suspended during his high school years for making “hit list” containing the names of classmates, teachers and other adults he intended to kill or rape.
Further chilling – and predictable – potential copy-cat incidents at Walmart stores in other states already had occurred by week’s end.
In Springfield, Missouri, police apprehended a man with an AR15 rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. In Federal Way, Washington, law enforcement responded to 911 calls about an angry and threatening man in the store with a handgun which turned out to be a pellet gun. Fortunately, quick action by store clerks and shoppers drew quick response from law enforcement. No one was shot or injured.
As happens with each of these mass shootings, political leaders and those with opposing views point fingers of blame at each other. Voices, some calm, others demanding and still others through irrational screams, raise quick and common questions about blame and response.
Deep lines already drawn on issues of gun control, immigration, nationalism, mental illness and more will be scratched even further into the sand. Little will be accomplished.
And all this while the criminally enraged, violently intent or mentally ill point loaded weapons at the rest of us.
It must be acknowledged that America has a critical and growing problem with the way some choose to use firearms. We have a problem with our systems in place to report, track and use information on individual’s past behavior and actions that could be predictive indicators of future violence. We have a problem with the way we identify and care for those on our streets with mental illness. And we have a problem with the way some choose to violently act toward others who look different, act different or carry different creeds or values.
When looking deeply and carefully at these problems and others of the sort, the commonality all is an underlying anger. It’s an undeniable evil rage.
Whether spoken by mouth or carried out by hand, evil, at its root, is a heart and soul matter.
It’s the underlying difference between a gun owner who lawfully uses his rifle and another who kills with theirs; or an individual who appreciates or tolerates differences of appearance, nationality, religion or partner preference with a neighbor and another who lashes out and attacks instead; or, frankly, the driver who expresses patience with another motorist sharing the road and the one who aggressively reacts with road rage.
National elected leaders and those seeking higher office will politicize these most recent killings. Pundits will take their usual corners in support or opposition. The NRA will be villainized. New laws will be suggested and some may be added to state or federal books.
Regardless, it will be the contents of one’s heart and the motivations and actions that come from within that guide the actions of the lawful in contrast to those with criminal intent.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.