Thirteen people were slaughtered and 20 others injured by a gunman Thursday at an Oregon community college.
The horrific murders happened the same day we released extensive print coverage of a school shooting drill in Amherst involving a SWAT response, a helicopter landing, and bomb squad robot deployment; they came just days after we posted pictures and a long video essay showing the strengths and weaknesses of the people we entrust with our protection to handle such a threat.
I had hoped our coverage would in no way be prescient, that there would be a vast sweep of time before what we learned in the exercise would become tragically relevant. I had hoped the mass casualty scenario would remain just a macabre bit of theater.
Those hopes could not live up to the harsh reality that mass shootings in America have become simply the cost of doing business.
So far in 2015, there have been 294 mass shootings in the United States, according to www.shootingtracker.com, a site that indexes incidents involving four or more victims of gun violence. The death toll is 357. The injury count is 1,073 as of this writing.
The Oregon shooting happened just 274 days into the year — meaning we suffer on average more than one killing spree a day.
In September alone, 43 Americans were killed in mass shootings and 141 were injured.
Another set of figures paints a broader picture. Since 1968, 1.5 million people in the United States have been killed by gunfire (the last available Centers for Disease Control statistics are from 2013 and include suicide). That surpasses the number of all American war casualties since the Revolutionary War, which is approximately 1.2 million.
It is time we admit we have a problem.
In much the same way that it is possible to support our troops while abhorring war, that is possible to support our police while abhorring the abuse of power, and that it is possible to support the justice system while abhorring that America is a world leader in imprisonment (second only by incarceration rate to the Republic of Saychelles in Africa) — it is also possible to embrace Second Amendment freedoms while abhorring our deadly fascination with firearms.
We have to do something to stop the flow of blood. In my mind that means tighter controls on guns. In your mind it might mean something different. That’s OK. Let’s work together instead of against each other to stop the shootings.