Editorial: America's great shame

Seattle Times Editorial Board, The Seattle Times on

Published in Op Eds

The great shame of modern America continues as another ghastly school shooting, this time in Florida, points out the inexcusable failure of politicians to impose more reasonable gun controls.

Must we wait for children to be slaughtered in every political district across the country for members of Congress and legislatures to grow spines? We might not have to wait long, at the current pace.

Who will defend our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

That right is diminished because Congress and legislatures are allowing the proliferation of military-style assault weapons that are designed to kill multiple people quickly and are being used to do so on a regular basis.

That right was denied to the children and families in Columbine, Newtown, Mukilteo and now Parkland, Florida, where at least 17 students and teachers were killed at a high school on Wednesday. It might have been denied to students at an Everett high school if it weren't for a grandmother who discovered a plan and a military-style weapon among her 18-year-old grandson's belongings Tuesday and called police.

That right should trump strained interpretations of the Second Amendment, which authorized a well-regulated militia, not flooding the country with millions of barely regulated weapons of mass human destruction.

No wonder Russia thinks it can bamboozle American voters. Years of dithering over gun control and brainwashing by the gun lobby has shown the world how easily Americans lose their bearings when bombarded with slogans and propaganda.

The gun lobby's greedy manipulation of emotions and the political process led to the absurd situation we're in today. A minority of the population wanting easy access to a particular class of dangerous weapons is prevailing over a nation begging its government to address the horrific mass shootings of children.

Additional gun restrictions will not end murder or shootings. There will always be aberrant behavior. But the frequency and severity of shootings will decrease if the country imposes more reasonable limits on firearms.

That should include a ban on semi-automatic, customizable, military-style assault weapons such as the AR-15 type used in Parkland and other recent mass shootings.

There should also be a national ban on high-capacity magazines that increase the lethality of these attacks, and reduce opportunities to escape or intervene when the shooter reloads.

Concerns of law-abiding gun owners must be taken into account. Gun ownership is a right and deeply held belief for some. Their views deserve respect. But this right was never absolute. Gun sales are regulated and regulations must evolve as conditions warrant.

Several promising steps were introduced in the Washington Legislature this year. But struggles to pass them show this is a bipartisan failure of leadership. Thecynical take is that too many representatives are more concerned about winning their next election than addressing an immediate public-health and safety crisis.

--Sponsored Video--

Democrats control the Legislature, but measures addressing assault weapons or high-capacity magazines stalled.

A bump-stock ban passed the Senate. Now it's up to the House to ban the devices that can be used on semi-automatic guns to emulate the performance of automatic weapons, as demonstrated in the Las Vegas massacre.

Especially disappointing is the failure of Senate Bill 5444, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt at the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson. It defines assault weapons and would require buyers of them and high-capacity magazines to undergo background checks comparable to those on handgun buyers. That includes a local law-enforcement check to see if buyers are subject to social-services or domestic-violence court orders.

The measure never reached the Senate floor before the cutoff date. Frockt said it didn't have enough votes to pass anyway.

"You want to make progress but there are limits to what the system will bear at the moment," he said. " Right now we just don't have the votes."

Perhaps the Parkland school massacre will help motivate lawmakers to approve the bump-stock ban.

Really, that's the least they can do to address the shame and horror of America's mass-shooting crisis.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Donna Gordon Blankinship, Brier Dudley, Mark Higgins, Melissa Santos, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

(c)2018 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Steve Benson Ken Catalino Gary Markstein Gary Varvel Mike Lester Lisa Benson