Weekly Feature

2017-10-04 / Editorials

Again and again, gun violence tears us apart

DAVID F. SHERMAN
Managing Editor

After watching the interview with Rep. Steve Scalise last night on “60 Minutes,” I had planned for this column to be primarily about his brush with death via a Virginia sniper. Then Las Vegas happened.

Scalise was as innocent a victim as every one of the people killed or injured Sunday night at a concert in the desert city. His chilling words regarding the attack that nearly cost his life could have been said by anyone injured in Las Vegas.

“A gunman came out with a lot of artillery — you know, just hell bent on killing a lot of us, said Scalise. “And we’re just out there playing baseball — sitting ducks. And he started firing away. If you would have said at the end of this that the only person that would be dead would be the shooter, nobody would believe it.”

Scalise and three other persons were shot on June 14 at a park in Alexandria, Virginia. As the majority whip, Scalise ranks third in the Republican House leadership.

In the interest of full disclosure, my daughter works for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Scalise is a member of that committee.

We don’t know much about the casualties from Las Vegas, now the scene of the worst mass shooting in American history. As of this writing, at least 58 people were killed and an estimated 500 wounded or injured. The numbers are numbing.

Because of the size of the crowd, the sniper’s position, and uncertainty if there were more than one gunman, access by police and first responders must have been challenging. But surely in all that chaos, lives were saved. Just as Scalise’s life was saved.

After more than three months in two hospitals, Scalise made his return to Capitol Hill last week and with the help of crutches, walked back into the House chambers and his role as majority whip. It was triumphant, emotional.

How many of the survivors of the Las Vegas incident will be as fortunate? How many will be able to move past the horrible memories? This week, there are renewed calls for stricter gun laws, especially when it comes to the availability of automatic weapons. There is no reason for a private citizen not associated with law enforcement to own what amounts to be a machine gun. It’s not for self-defense. It’s not for sport. You do the math.

“After the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, the impulse of politicians will be to lower flags, offer moments of silence, and lead a national mourning. Yet what we need most of all isn’t mourning, but action to lower the toll of guns in America,” according to New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof.

He offers suggestions on how to prevent mass shootings, including universal background checks and limiting the number of guns that an individual can purchase in any given month.

“The gun lobby will say that this isn’t a time for politics. But if we can’t learn the lesson from this carnage, then there will be more such shootings — again and again,” Kristof added.

As a journalist, I am weary of this mass violence. We need action. Former Vice President Joe Biden may have summed it up best on Monday via Twitter.

“How long do we let gun violence tear families apart? Enough. Congress & the WH should act now to save lives. There’s no excuse for inaction,” he said.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of more than 200,000 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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