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Gazette-Mail editorial: An America on edge

There were three incidents of mass panic on Tuesday, spanning from the East Coast to the Western U.S.

No, they were not caused by a mass shooting. Not directly, anyway. They occurred because, in all three incidents, throngs of people thought they heard gunshots.

After two mass shootings over the weekend that claimed 31 lives, and the repeated, systematic failure of government to do anything meaningful as these heinous acts have occurred again and again going back decades, Americans are living with frayed nerves.

A scare at a Walmart in Louisiana (the man who killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, was targeting anyone he thought might be Latino at a Walmart) ended when police discovered it was just an altercation between two men in which a firearm was reportedly glimpsed by someone.

In New York’s Times Square, six people were injured when crowds surged to get away from what turned out to be backfire from the exhausts of motorcycles. Witnesses told NBC News that there were screams of “shooter!” They described the scene as a “stampede,” with waves of people knocking each other about as they tried to get away.

There was also a scare in a Utah mall as the noise from a sign falling prompted shoppers to run and some to try and find cover. As with the New York incident, someone had yelled that shots were being fired after the noise.

Somehow, we are asked to believe that the right to own semiautomatic assault rifles and rifles with high-capacity magazine drums are worth all of this. It’s worth the countless dead, it’s worth people thinking they could be gunned down at any time just for going to a public place, to keep these types of weapons and modifications legal.

We’ll continue saying until blue in the face that we are not proposing anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights be taken away, or that no one should be allowed to own firearms. That is not what this is about. There are just as many, if not more, responsible gun owners who respect the lethal nature of their weapons in this country than those who don’t.

But so many have died, and so many more are terrified because this occurs again and again, and the people who could make a difference, such as Congress, continually fail to act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is currently squashing two gun safety bills that passed the House, neither of which would infringe on the 2nd Amendment or result in the government “taking your guns.”

No one needs a .223-caliber firearm attached to a dual ammo drum that contains 100 rounds (as the shooter in Dayton, Ohio, used to kill nine people in less than a minute) for personal protection, competition or hunting.

Yes, there are other facets that need to be addressed. Yes, mental health is an issue. But the obvious difference between someone showing red flags in any other developed nation and the U.S. is that in this country, that person can obtain a firearm, legally, with ease.

There’s so much more to this, but the government should look at the things it can do before talking about all the things it can’t.

The proportions of this epidemic should be enough to earnestly have this conversation that so often fades until the next tragedy. With these latest incidents, there is a difference. The toll this has taken on the American psyche is more publicly evident, as the incidents on Tuesday demonstrate. People are scared. What good is any part of the Constitution if people are too frightened to exercise their freedom to simply leave the house — to go to school, to go shopping, to see a movie, to go sightseeing — because of all the violence and death that has occurred?

Change is never easy, but enough is enough. If Americans can’t make the basic sacrifices needed to keep military-type weapons and accessories out of the hands of those who would use them to inflict mass casualties, the country is saying that all of this death, fear and emotional turmoil is indeed worth it because of basic selfishness.

Funerals Today, Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Armstead, David - Noon, Chapman Funeral Home, Winfield.

Crawford, Charles - 7:30 p.m., Andrews' residence, Belleaire at Devonshire, Scott Depot.

Duff, Catherine Ann - 11 a.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Jarrett, Shirley - 1 p.m., Mt. Juliet United Methodist Church, Belle.

Lawrentz, Deo Mansfried - 11 a.m., Koontz Cemetery, Clendenin.

McGraw, Judy Fay - 2 p.m., Jodie Missionary Baptist Church, Jodie.

Mullins, Alice Ellen (Blessing) - Noon, Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Staats, Anthony Vernon “Tony” - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.