Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two Killed, Seven Others Injured in Weekend Shooting

“Two killed, seven others injured in weekend shooting,” read the headline in papers across the country. 

But the articles were not about the same incident.  “Two killed, seven others injured,” is a story that took place in three separate cities last weekend. 

            Two killed, seven others injured in a shooting outside a neighborhood store in northwest Miami, Florida.  A gunman, using an assault rifle, opened fire on a group of teenagers playing dice.  Two killed, ages 16 and 18, seven others injured.  Police have no suspects in custody.

            Two killed, seven others injured in a shooting during a wake at a home in southeast Wichita, Kansas.   Two killed, ages 22 and 66, seven others injured as someone fired shots from outside the house.  Police have no suspects in custody.

            Two killed, seven others injured in a shooting outside a nightclub in Portland, Oregon.  Two killed, ages 16 and 17, seven others injured.  The 24-year-old gunman took his own life.  According to news accounts the gunman had displayed troublesome behavior in high school and had been hospitalized for depression and attempted suicide.  In a note to his roommate, the gunman gave information about his special PS3 gaming system, describing possible ways to sell it, but gave no motive for the shooting. 

Six of the victims in the Portland shooting were foreign exchange students.  According to Portland Police Chief the incident “echoes most Europeans’ fear about gun violence” in America.  Six people killed and twenty-one others injured in three separate shootings would have sparked national debates in most other countries but here in the United States the stories barely made out of the local papers.

Why do we passively accept such levels of gun violence?  Why do we sit back and watch quietly as gun violence prevention measures are struck down in state houses across the country?  The National Rifle Association is a big part of the answer.

The NRA is a reactionary, fringe organization.  It just ran an unsuccessful campaign against President Obama that, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, called "one of the worst examples of lying" that "distorted Obama's position on gun control beyond recognition."  

Former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman has called the NRA a "cynical, mercenary political cult" and admits that the organization "isn't interested in actually solving problems, only in fueling perpetual crisis and controversy." 

The NRA survives by selling fear.  It profits from polarizing.  Legislators that seek and accept the endorsement of the NRA are, in effect, condoning an organization that is fueled by stoking fear in its membership and bullying and threatening legislators who dare to go against it.   

We need a new kind of politics.  In this new “era of responsibility” we need legislators who want to be cooperative, not those who embrace organizations that incite battle and combat.   We need to work together to find ways to end the needless cycle of gun violence in our country.

We should never have to pick up our local paper and read the headline “two killed, seven others injured in weekend shooting.”