We have the same conversation about guns and public safety after every mass shooting in this country.
Each time, the conversation also gets hijacked — muddled with incorrect perceptions that anyone talking about gun standards must be talking about taking our guns away. We must get past the red herrings in this and begin to talk long enough to make this distinction: Guns in the woods and fields of our hunting lands are very different from guns in our neighborhoods, in our parks, in our strip centers, theaters, restaurants, bars, offices — even churches. Secondly, we must recognize that standards for legal gun ownership should correlate with the risk an owner or would-be owner presents.
In 2015 alone, our rhetorical gun conversations started more than 200 times, according shootingtracker.com (operated by a group named Guns Are Cool that clearly likes guns but just as clearly doesn't like the National Rifle Association).
More than 200 times in six months! That is, on average, a mass shooting every day. Six were in Tennessee. Two were in Chattanooga — most recently on July 16 when a man the FBI has labeled a "homegrown extremist" fired on two military facilities here. Shootingtracker.com defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot. The other Chattanooga shooting was in January when a 17-year-old reportedly shot four people on West Main Street, killing one.
This brings us to the nation's newest mass shooting story.
"3 Fatally Shot and 9 Injured at Theater in Lafayette, La." This sorrowful shooting even has celebrity draw — the movie, "Trainwreck," stars feminist comedienne Amy Shumer. The plot is about promiscuous sex.
The shooter, described as a 59-year-old drifter and "lone white male" gunman, killed himself after he opened fire shortly before 7:30 p.m.
Louisiana Gov. and Republican presidential contender Bobby Jindal described the shooting as "senseless."
"This is an awful night for Lafayette. This is an awful night for Louisiana. This is an awful night for the United States," he said. "When these kinds of acts of violence happen in a movie theater, when there's no real good reason why this kind of evil should intrude on the lives of families who are just out for a night of entertainment, I know a lot of us are horrified and shocked."
It sounds tragically familiar, doesn't it?
On Friday, Chattanooga buried one of our victims of a mass shooting. On Saturday and Tuesday, we'll bury two more. Altogether, six will be buried following the bloody rampage here just over a week ago when Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, of Hixson, unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two Chattanooga military facilities, then died himself during a gun bttle with police
Like Abdulazeez, the Louisiana gunman, John Houser of Alabama, had a history of mental illness, according to his family. Houser's estranged wife and other family members had sought and received a temporary protective order in 2008 against him, claiming in court documents that he "exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements" and "has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder. The wife had "become so worried about the defendant's volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence," the court documents state. The order was later lifted.
Louisiana's Gov. Jindal is rated an A+ by the National Rifle Association, and he has opposed every sensible piece of gun control legislation in Louisiana. Last year, he signed two bills to expand gun rights in his state — one allowing people with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol and another expanding Louisiana's "stand your ground" law.
Like many of our Republican politicians, Jindal called President Barack Obama's calls for stricter gun control "completely shameful" after a Dylann Roof killed nine people in Charleston, S.C., in June. But when a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kuwait opened fire here earlier this month, Jindal released a statement saying the incident "certainly looks like an act of terrorism" that "underscores the grave reality of the threat posed to us by radical Islamic terrorism every single day." Now in his state, with another white right-winger behind the trigger, yet another mass shooting is simply a tragedy that needs prayers again.
Here in Chattanooga, we're told that gun sales spiked after Abdulazeez's assault on military recruiter and training centers. And around the country, civilian vigilantes set up makeshift guard stations at recruiting offices — ridiculous scenes if they weren't so distressingly tragic. In Ohio, one of the armed civilian guards accidentally fired a shot from an AR-15 rifle into the pavement as he was clearing ammunition from the rifle when someone asked to look at it. And in Gainesville, Ga., on the day after our shooting, a Navy recruiter accidentally shot himself with his personal weapon that he brought to work.
When are we going to say enough is enough with guns?
Our country has no common-sense gun laws — and what few we had have been stripped away by lawmakers goaded by the NRA.
It is time to stop this madness.