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Gazette-Mail editorial: Do something about gun violence

Twenty-two people lost their lives as a gunman went on a rampage Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where he wounded at least another 20. Miles away and just a few hours later, nine people were killed as a shooter went on a spree in Dayton, Ohio.

The shooter in Texas had a legally obtained, semiautomatic AK-47-style rifle. The shooter in Ohio, who was killed by police, had ammunition drums containing up to 250 rounds.

Was it just another 24 hours in America? After all, nothing happened after elementary school children were mercilessly mowed down in Newtown, Connecticut. Nothing was done after more than 40 were killed in a nightclub in Orlando. A meager bump-stock ban was the government response to an incident in which a man opened fire on an outdoor concert from a hotel window in Las Vegas. Nearly 60 were killed and hundreds wounded (a man who survived that encounter was later killed in a mass shooting in California). The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tried to take action after a shooting that killed 17. They wanted to ensure they were the last who had to see their friends die in a mass shooting. They weren’t.

Those are just a handful of incidents that have occurred in the past few years alone. There are too many to count. Mass shootings don’t always have catastrophic death tolls, but they happen every day in this country. As of Sunday, there have been 251 mass shootings so far in 2019, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. That outpaces the number of days in the year, which hits 218 as of Tuesday. No other developed nation has a problem anywhere near the situation in the U.S.

And yet, nothing happens. Politicians offer their platitudes, blame video games, tell those who would seek change not to “make it political” and move on until the next, inevitable incident.

Those who do try something, like Sens. Joe Machin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., did after the 2012 Connecticut massacre, are foiled because their bill didn’t have enough votes to break a Republican filibuster. The bill, which would have expanded background checks on firearms purchases, was astoundingly popular in polls among both gun owners and those without firearms.

When Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine, a Republican, took to the podium at a vigil for those killed in Dayton to offer the routine “thoughts and prayers,” the crowd began chanting “Do something!”

It certainly seems as if the American people have had enough. They’re tired of worrying if their kids are safe at school, if they can go to a movie theater or concert or even a shopping plaza without eying the exits and looking over their shoulders.

For whatever reason, be it the gun lobby or sheer reluctance to tackle the issue, that message never resonates with enough members of Congress.

If America really wants to honor the lives of those lost, and keep more senseless violence from occurring, it’s time for those who can do something to break the cycle.

We’re not advocating that guns be taken from their owners. But there has to be more accountability and reasonable restrictions to keep someone from butchering people in places that should be safe to every American.

Those in power who still have a shred of a moral compass and the ability to think independently must break political ranks. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., could certainly make a difference in that regard.

Expanding background checks, making high-capacity magazines illegal, even a ban on assault-type rifles (America has done it before, but the George W. Bush administration allowed the ban to lapse) should be on the table.

Citizens are outraged, and their representatives in Washington should be outraged, too. No amount of money from the gun lobby, no amount of political lethargy, should have the ability to wash away the blood from any of the 31 lives taken over the weekend, or those that have been taken in similar incidents before.

Washington refuses to wake up, and Americans have every right to be incensed about how little their lives seem to be worth to those they’ve elected. The people know, without action, this will just happen again. And again. And again.

Do something.

Funerals for Thursday, August 22, 2019

Booth, Paul - 2 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Cummings, David - 1 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Gregor, Kathy - 5 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Lore, Madge - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Sanders, Wetzel - 2 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, West Hamlin.

Stalnaker, Lillian - 11 a.m., Little Kanawha Memorial Gardens, Flatwoods.