PD Editorial: Again we mourn a mass shooting

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Senseless carnage, once again.

Another community is mourning, this time Thousand Oaks, after a gunman opened fire, this time in a suburban bar where more than 100 people, many of them college students, two of them celebrating 21st birthdays, had gathered for an evening of country music and camaraderie.

This time, 12 people died, including a deputy sheriff responding to calls for help.

It’s shocking, yet it isn’t, because these tragedies are so grievously common.

Wednesday’s massacre at the Borderline Bar and Grill was the 18th mass shooting in the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which counts only those incidents where at least four people, excluding the gunman, died. The death toll for 2018, so far, is 118.

Twelve days ago, the scene was a synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed. In September, it was a Rite-Aid distribution center in Aberdeen, Maryland, where four people died. Eight days before that, six people were gunned down in Bakersfield. In May, 10 people were shot to death at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

The list is so long that the Valentine’s Day killing of 17 students, teachers and coaches at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is a distant memory.

According to news accounts, some of the Borderline patrons were present a little more than a year ago when 58 people were killed at a Las Vegas music festival — the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

In addition to Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, Wednesday’s victims include Cody Coffman, the 22-year-old grandson of a Clearlake couple, and Alaina Housley, the 18-year-old daughter of a Napa County couple. Our hearts go out to their families and to all those who lost loved ones.

Authorities have yet to determine what motivated Ian David Long, the 28-year-old Newbury Park man responsible for the Borderline shooting. Long, who also killed himself, was identified as a decorated former Marine who may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Long was armed with a legally obtained .45-caliber handgun, fitted with an extended ammunition magazine that California is trying to outlaw.

We’re left, once again, with questions: Why are mass shooting so commonplace in America? What prompts someone to kill innocent strangers? Could this have been prevented?

It’s no secret that Congress steadfastly refuses to consider the most basic gun-safety measures, including universal background checks and limiting the size of ammunition magazines. But Congress also has hamstrung efforts to understand the causes of gun violence.

Since 1996, a budget provision known as the Dickey Amendment has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control from funding research projects that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The restriction was eased slightly following the Parkland High School shooting, and the National Institutes of Health subsequently funded a five-year, $5 million effort to identify ways to prevent and reduce firearms injuries in children.

More scholarly research is needed. Instead we’ll probably hear more foolish claims that arming more people is the antidote for gun violence. That hasn’t worked yet, and it never will. But fewer firearms and less glorification of gun violence on TV and the big screen might spare someone from becoming a future victim.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com

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