The headlines seem to come in rapid-fire succession, one eclipsing the other, filling us with horror and heartbreak: Twenty innocent people killed and more than two dozen wounded at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where families were doing their back-to-school shopping on what surely began as a peaceful, mundane Saturday morning.
Police are investigating the massacre as domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime — they believe the gunman posted a racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Latino manifesto. Less than 13 hours later, nine people were killed and 16 injured in Dayton, Ohio, where authorities said a gunman wearing body armor mowed down his victims in less 60 seconds.
Just last week, at a food festival in Gilroy, Calif., a gunman shot and killed three people including two children. El Paso. Dayton, Gilroy. Add them to the long and growing list of deadly mass shootings in America that have taken hundreds of lives.
Six of the deadliest occurred in Texas. Besides El Paso, they include Santa Fe in 2018 and Sutherland Springs the year before. Before them came Fort Hood, Killeen and Austin, where Charles Whitman killed 14 from atop the University of Texas Tower in 1966.
Let’s call this what it is: American carnage.
Its rightful name is terrorism, and we must harness the courage to end this senseless bloodshed now, for we are better than this.
This country can no longer tolerate the status quo that produces tragedies that should not surprise us when assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines are easily available. These are weapons of war designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible on the battlefield, not to protect our home or to hunt game. Yet, in most states, they can be owned by civilians, including those who would do us harm.
We also can no longer tolerate the status quo that allows our elected representatives to merely offer prayers without mentioning guns and to hide behind soundbites about now not being the time to invoke politics. We must hold our officials accountable to the task of finding solutions in meaningful gun reform legislation. They and the American people cannot talk about mass shootings without addressing guns. If that is talking politics amid tragedy, so be it.
As we have stated before, we stand by the Second Amendment, but the founding fathers could not have envisioned modern weapons of war when they guaranteed the right to "bear arms." Nor could they have foreseen the current divisive, partisan political climate that stymies meaningful discussion and a search for solutions. These senseless slaughters should outrage us all, no matter the party we belong to or whether we own guns.
Reasonable Americans can agree without vilifying one another that gun legislation can be achieved without infringing on the Second Amendment.
The suspect in the El Paso massacre is believed to have written that he is a supporter of President Donald Trump, that his attack was his response to a "Hispanic invasion of Texas," and that he considered immigration bad for the future of the country.
Any discussion about guns cannot be complete without addressing the growing threat of white nationalism. White supremacists pose a "persistent, pervasive threat" to the country, FBI Director Chris Wray told Congress in April. We must acknowledge, too, that the word "invasion" is familiar − used by Trump to vilify immigrants. Time and time again, he has sown bigotry − Latinos and African Americans are among his targets − to divide Americans. This should trouble us all.
The gunmen who carry out these slaughters should be held fully accountable for their actions. But Americans should condemn all racist rhetoric that emboldens dangerous people and puts innocent lives at risk. Far too often, our elected leaders are mute about the president's attacks.
El Paso. Dayton. Parkland, Fla., Las Vegas, Orlando, Columbine, Sandy Hook. These are but a few.
The mass shootings that slaughter our neighbors as they worship or enjoy a movie or a concert or shop for school supplies should not become routine.
But the solutions can only be found in legislative reforms that keep all Americans safer, limiting access to assault weapons and screening out those who should not have guns, while upholding the Second Amendment. All of us should demand that our elected representatives find the political will and the courage to find these answers. For we should be better than this.