What does it sound like: The spontaneous and random murders of 22 unsuspecting humans, moms and dads, children, on a fair Saturday morning, shopping happily and expectantly at an El Paso Walmart, by one determined young man with a military-style rifle, locked and loaded for his apparent hunt-down-and-kill purpose?
And hours later, what was the killer’s point with his barrage of shots from a military-style firearm into midnight crowds enjoying Dayton’s version of our upper King Street? He killed his sister and eight others. Police killed him just 29 seconds after he began firing. The efficiency of mayhem: nine dead, 27 others wounded in 29 seconds.
In El Paso, authorities say it was a human hunting humans, in an American city; the tint of the victims’ skin, the accent of their speech defining them as prey.
In Dayton, the killer reportedly was “violence–addicted,” with that uber-efficient weapon fed by a 100-round drum magazine.
Echoes of Mother Emanuel; too many years later, hate, of many origins, abounds. Solutions do not.
Now we have the sound-and-fury message of most Americans to their elected leaders: “Do something!”
Will common sense and a national urgency finally transcend frustration and futility, moving lawmakers to act? Or will we soon enough notice once again that the demand to “Do something!” gradually fades with time and slow-walking and double-talking policymaking?
While we wait, we ponder the awful realities — and confusing impressions.
Is this about “hate,” an old word with new meanings, seeded and propagated in social media forums, inspired by the words — understood and misunderstood — uttered by others?
Or is this mostly related to an epidemic of mental illness, the demented assailants assimilating the messages of hate and kill, and then, having acquired powerful guns, the hateful becomes a killer?
Hate is evil. Is hate a mental illness?
The National Rifle Association’s rabid politicization of all gun control issues spins most common-sense solutions into political oblivion. Keep weapons out of the hands of known criminals or the mentally impaired … but, wait, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
That’s an intellectually gagging premise and suggests that the thinking be elevated toward practical realities. Sick people kill others because they have powerful and efficient guns (read: Dayton). Hateful people kill others because they have powerful military-type weapons (read: El Paso).
And what about handguns used by teenagers and young adults to kill each other right here in Greater Charleston? Are we sufficiently concerned about this growing pattern of human killings with illegally possessed guns?
Surely we can help our elected leaders figure this out and move past the noisy and ugly parrying politics.
Extremism is a reality. Mental illness is a reality. Uncontrolled weapons possession is a reality. The inertia of legislative action is an arching reality.
True north for us Americans always is the steadfast code of humanity.
Half a century ago, as a young reporter, I met a son of an African American man who in the 1940s had been tracked down and lynched in Georgia. He recalled that his entire family in Georgia felt “hunted.” And lived in utter fear. I’ll never forget his point, nor his sincerity.
Now, folks in El Paso and many other American cities talk of their fear and a sense of being “hunted.”
Who among us is not concerned about fellow humans living in fear that they are being hunted in any American city?
Or unsafe at churches, schools, workplaces, or on the streets of our busy cities?
This is America. Our elected leaders, motivated by common sense and political courage, can address this problem as a dictate of Americanism.
The difference in “sooner” or “later” is more mass killings and more lost lives.
Ron Brinson, a former associate editor of this newspaper, is a North Charleston city councilman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.