opinion | From Colorado Springs to Chesapeake, gunfights demand honesty in guns


The mass shootings that plague this nation are a uniquely American jumble of contradictions. Each new one is appalling and yet fits into a depressingly familiar pattern. Communities are counting the dead – nearly 50 so far in November – and counting the gruesome details. Country vows to honor shortened lives. And then it all fades from the headlines and people move on leaving thoughts and prayers but no concrete guidelines to stop the next bloodbath.

There have been an average of nearly two mass shootings per day in the United States this year Archive gun violence, which tracks when four or more people are shot. In other words, it is now unusual to have a day without a mass shooting. “We are not deaf – we are traumatized” tweeted Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which has been calling for action to end gun violence in America since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a decade ago that killed 20 children and six staff members.

It can happen anywhere and to anyone. Fourteen Americans mowed down this month at the University of Virginia, Club Q in Colorado Springs and a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, were going about normal activities of daily living — going to school, enjoying a show, working. They leave behind grieving relatives who ask: why?

The Post’s view: Our dysfunctional relationship with guns rears its ugly head in Virginia

In any case, as is so often the case, warning signs were overlooked – or ignored. The chilling note the Walmart shooter left on his phone rail against his colleagues, claiming his phone had been hacked, suggests he was a deeply distraught 31-year-old. And yet he was able to buy a pistol just hours before he massacred six co-workers in a break room. In Colorado Springs, a 22-year-old suspect who was arrested last year over an alleged bomb threat but was never prosecuted was not prevented from obtaining an AR-15-style gun and handgun. It’s eerily similar in the University of Virginia shooting: The 22-year-old suspect had had multiple previous run-ins with the law, including a 2021 conviction of possession of a concealed firearm without a license.

Too often these tragedies are written off as isolated cases of mental illness. That doesn’t explain why the United States has had more than 600 mass shootings every year since 2020, and why no other country has anywhere near this level of gun violence. We need to face the truth about guns in America and why it’s so easy for virtually anyone to get one – including some that are weapons of war.

The fact that no single measure can stop all mass shootings is no excuse for not doing things that might prevent some of them or reduce tolls when they happen. President Biden is rightly calling for another nationwide ban on assault weapons, which he helped enforce for ten years in 1994 while he was a senator. Poll after poll shows widespread support for stricter gun laws. The House of Representatives passed the ban in July, but the Senate has yet to act.

The Post’s view: Again, Americans are being killed by a weapon of war. A ban must be on the table.

Earlier this year, Democrats and some Republicans worked together to pass a gun safety law as the nation mourned the deaths of 19 elementary school students and two teachers in a horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The new law provided more funding for mental health services and school security, expanded background checks on 18- to 21-year-olds trying to buy guns, and more funding for programs that help confiscate guns from troubled individuals. It was a start, but lawmakers can’t stop there.

But the US Congress is not the only place where action is needed. When Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was asked if he would support tougher gun restrictions after two mass shootings took place in his state this month, he replied: “Today is not the time.” When is so the right time?

In 2020 and 2021, when Democrats controlled both the legislature and the governorship, Virginia passed slightly improved gun control laws. Changes included sensible reforms: universal background checks, a three-year ban on gun ownership for those convicted of assaulting a family member, and a warning signal law that gives authorities the power to confiscate guns from anyone deemed a threat. Obviously it wasn’t enough.

The Post’s view: The Senate bipartisan arms deal is an encouraging first step

The wave of gun violence has erupted despite the Supreme Court restricting the tools governments at all levels can use to address the problem. The June court ruling overturning a New York state statute restricting permission to conceal carry ordered lower courts to declare gun laws unconstitutional unless proponents could point to a historical analogue — in other words, point to it that regulations are based on or similar to these existed in the past. This is an unnecessary and unworkable standard, making its way through the lower courts with predictably dismal results. The court should make it clear that its historical orientation need not be applied with monomaniac precision.

Army veteran Richard M. Fierro is rightly being called a hero for attacking the gunman at Club Q in Colorado Springs and preventing the death toll from mounting any further. But it’s chilling to hear him describe how the events of that night resembled those he’d seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. How his combat training kicked in after seeing the shooter’s weapon and body armor. His daughter’s boyfriend was one of the victims. “Everyone in this building saw a fight that night,” Fierro said. It only took three days to create another scene from a war zone, this time inside a Walmart.

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Editorials represent the views of the Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the editorial board based on range of opinion and separate from the newsroom.

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