APTOPIX Church Shooting Texas

Kenneth and Irene Hernandez pay their respects Monday as they visit a makeshift memorial with crosses placed near the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing and wounding many.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

Another week, another American mass shooting.

This time, shooter Devin Patrick Kelley walked into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, during Sunday services and opened fire. He killed 26 and injured another 20 in the small town of about 600 residents.

Mass shootings are so commonplace, so quintessentially American, that it's almost too easy to forget about the last one. There can be little doubt that those who make millions in stoking irrational fear and slinging guns count on society's short memory.

Sunday's massacre occurred just 35 days after the bloodbath in Las Vegas, the deadliest in American history. In that instance, shooter Stephen Paddock perched in a hotel room and rained bullets down on a crowd of concert goers. 

Kelley and Paddock -- and most mass shooters for that matter -- share key likenesses. Both are men. Both are white. 

And, because of these characteristics, both are free from generalized, throw-away labels that isolate and victimize countless minority populations in the U.S. 

If either man had been African American, he would be called a "thug" and, regardless of evidence, politically motivated hyperbole about gang and inner city violence would dominate headlines. If either man were named Muhammad, the president would, with caps lock engaged, rail about "terrorists" and immigration policy, a sweeping damnation of an entire population. 

Instead, men such as Kelley and Paddock are "lone wolves" and "loners." The verbiage used for white men translates to one pervasive message: They're outliers and social rejects who do not reflect the entire group.

It's the very definition of white privilege.

Traveling in Asia, President Donald Trump answered questions about the carnage of the week. It wasn't "a gun issue," Trump said. He blamed the entire thing on a "mental problem." Meanwhile, the U.S. averages a mass shooting a day in 2017, according to Gun Violence Archives, which flags any shooting that involves more than four people. 

Another similarity among Kelley and Paddock: Both men used similar tools to destroy lives, AR-15 assault-style rifles These weapons aren't uniquely dangerous because they're semi-automatic, scare urbanites or resemble something out of a war movie. Their ability to accept 30- and 50-round magazines is what makes them functionally different from a deer rifle. Their modular design, which easily accepts conversion kits, such as "bump stocks," makes them the tool of choice for the disaffected and twisted. 

And yet, the U.S. is awash in them, weapons solely designed to kill human beings. The gun lobby has, by and large, quelled the national discussion, so much so that federal scientists are barred from studying gun violence. A proposed ban on "bump stocks," pitched after the Las Vegas shooting is stalled in Congress, precisely as the National Rifle Association intended when it instead called for review by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. A leading manufacturer of "bump stocks," Texas-based Slide Fire, this week began selling the devices again, reported National Public Radio. The company's website says "patriots" buy them, whatever that means. 

Yes, Mr. President, guns are the issue. So, too, is a craven political environment that refuses to honestly debate the issue on the merits. One can, at the same time, support the Second Amendment and a ban on assault weapons.

For instance, Scott County GOP posted a screed this week drafted by Central Committee member Joseph Huss. In it, Huss says airplanes and knives have been used to kill, too. Sure, OK. But Huss neglected to address the hulking silverback in the room.

Grandmothers and toddlers are now subject to federal searches at airports, a direct response to the 9/11 attacks. The blunt-edged butter knife was created in the 17th century precisely because pointed blades were so often weaponized among "brutish men" sitting around Medieval tables, historians say. In 1669, French King Louis XIV banned pointed knives in an attempt to stem violence. And no knife has been capable of carnage on a grand scale like a modern rifle. 

For centuries, society has reacted to deadly technology through regulation. But guns, and the fetishized political symbolism they've come to represent, are more important to those in power than the lives, and rights, of thousands of men, women and children gunned down by a mass-shooter's preferred tool.

To them, all this bloodshed is the cost of a twisted view of "freedom."

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.


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