Nearly six years ago, an editorial in The Record decried the nation’s escalating gun violence.
It noted that nearly every day in the United States, close to 100 people are killed by someone using guns. Big guns; little guns. Hunting guns and, unbelievably, guns developed for use by the military. They’re called assault weapons and, for a while, they were banned.
Now they’re not, and anyone who wants an AR-15 can legally get one.
According to Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, an AR-15 was used here in Louisville when the plague of mass shootings visited our city. We know that five people were killed and eight wounded on the morning of April 10. Two of the wounded were police officers. The shooter was also killed.
It’s all further evidence that when it comes to the epidemic of gun violence, no community is immune.
The 2017 editorial — quoting statistics provided by the New York Times and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — noted that the United States has a gun violence problem. The numbers remain as mind-numbing today as they did a half-dozen years ago.
For instance, last year in Japan, 10 people were killed by handguns. In Great Britain, that number was 50; 47 in Switzerland and 41 in Sweden. In the U.S., the number was 38,658. Nearly six years ago, The Record asked that we do something to stem the violent tide.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” the editorial said.
But nothing is exactly what has been done. Nothing; nada; zippo. And as last month’s shooting in Nashville, Tenn., shows, even school children continue to be slaughtered by guns.
School shootings have become commonplace. Consider this: According to federal statistics, since the editorial in 2017, 586 people have been killed in school shootings. And the vast majority died from assault weapons.
Assault weapons can’t be mistaken for guns hobbyists legitimately use for hunting. Matthew Walther, editor of the Catholic literary journal The Lamp, noted recently that the AR-15 has little in common with “the .30-06 rifle I use for deer hunting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”
“Understanding the cultural appeal of AR-15 style semiautomatic rifles like those used in Nashville may not be as urgent a matter as the policy question concerning their availability,” Walther wrote. “I favor imposing restrictions on the manufacture and ownership of AR-15 style weapons.”
Walther says that the assault weapon has, for some, taken the place of other American hobby cultures — such as “auto repair, darkroom photography, ham radio operation and the like.”
“The pervasiveness of these guns — made possible by the end of the federal ban on assault weapons in 2004 — has led to the creation of social and cultural conditions in which such shootings (as in Nashville) have become a familiar fact of American life.”
It’s a cultural phenomena that has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, too. He has repeatedly called for people of the church to pray for reducing violence, both between nations and among people.
Shortly after the March 27 Nashville shooting, the pope noted that in the U.S. the idea of owning weapons of war “has become a habit.”
He pleaded for dialogue. “Please,” he said, in a letter, “let us say something that will stop this.”
In the nation’s capital, there isn’t even a conversation scheduled to discuss tougher gun laws or the renewed banning of assault weapons. In Tennessee, three politicians rose in the state house to demand tougher gun laws, and the majority decided to kick two of them out of the legislature.
So the carnage, unabated, continues. Apparently “doing nothing” is the only option some lawmakers will consider.
Record Editor Emeritus