The Fourth of July was the most heart breaking national holiday in modern memory. In Chicago alone, 68 people were a shot and eight killed, most of them in confrontations that will be difficult to understand given the city’s long struggle with violence.
In a wealthy and comfortable suburb, Highland Park, a man with an assault rifle killed seven people and sent two dozen more to hospitals after he used women’s clothes to sneak to the roof of a building, fire his rounds, then escape. He was caught of course not long after in another suburb by cops with good memories for pictures and a solid description of his getaway car, which belonged to his mother.
His troubling story unfolded after his arrest. He was able to purchase assault style weapons and pistols even after police had been called to his house following a suicide attempt and a later threat “to kill everyone.” They removed a collection of knives from his home along with a sword. There were no charges.
He passed four background checks. He has posted violent cartoons on his website and called himself a rapper. Lots of violence in his music. This man was ticking like a time bomb, but no one had reason to file charges because everything he did up to the point at which he started shooting people was legal.
The incident shattered the sense of safety all up and down Lake Michigan’s North Shore, where many communities cancelled their Fourth celebrations for fear of copy cat killers or the original murderer, who was still roaming earlier in the day.
The National Rifle Association, along with a collection of other organizations that think that two guns for every adult in the United States (and that is just a guess because no one really knows) is just not enough, would argue that the only thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.
It even has cases to point to where that happened.
But let’s be frank.
Which one of the members of the inevitable weekend clot of murderers in Chicago was the good one with the gun? Everyone has lots of guns and still these tragedies play out with depressing regularity everywhere from classrooms to public events to nightclubs to street fights to who knows what or where.
“Oh it’s is gang stuff” simply doesn’t explain it. What is it that leads people to think it is okay to confront someone on the street and shoot him or her to death? Certainly there are lots of theories. Some places in the city are particularly prone to violence because of gangs. How do you break that cycle?
I don’t know. It is obviously a mental health problem that sweeps across a whole slice of culture and makes it pretend and behave as though territory for drug sales, whatever, is justification for urban warfare.
It’s not, of course.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that gang violence explains it all. Many gun deaths are suicides. And one answer to Chicago’s occasional outbreaks of violence may well live in Indiana. It’s hard to think of how governments could restrict firearms more in Illinois. But Indiana is obviously open territory for gun sales. So people go there, buy them “legally” then come back to Chicago and sell them again, quite illegally.
Solve that problem and gang violence might decline. But maybe not.
Access to guns is the real problem. It’s time to stop denying that, and there is no better reason why than to look at the stories and stats caused by gun violence over the past few months, with the worst being at a public school in Texas.
One could go on and on about these incidents.
I’m not going to because we all know about them and we all know something has to be done about them. The problem here is Congress.
To be sure there are good members of Congress who want to cut to the heart of this problem, identify its causes and eliminate them. Getting rid of assault weapons would help a lot. But they already know that.
In place of that, we get this.