The saddest routine of them all

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“Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it … We have become numb to this.” – President Barack Obama, Oct. 1, 2015.

Sad commentary on American society, isn’t it? But hard to argue with what the president had to say after a student at a community college shot and killed 10 people before police shot and killed him. Yet in the wake of the 15th mass killing since 2009, I’m not sure we’re any closer to what to do about these senseless tragedies.

Partly due to the most partisan political climate this country has likely ever seen and partly due to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it’s very difficult to do anything. I think the authors of the constitution had no idea America would have today’s climate that surrounds guns and the right to own and bear arms. They were most likely worried about military dictatorships taking power in Colonial America, so the right of American citizens to have the same kinds of weapons then available made sense.

Identifying mass shooters not the real argument

Tragedies like this also always bring up the debate on whether the news media should identify – some say glorify – those responsible. That’s another difficult issue. Think about what you want to know when you first hear about someone dying due to violence. After expressing your sorrow, your first question is most likely, “Who did it?” How would you feel if the answer would be, “I know, but I can’t tell you”? It’s human nature to want to place blame, unfortunately. Someone is always responsible when things go wrong, right? The First Amendment says the public is entitled to know information such as names and places.

And I’m not sure not identifying mass killers so they don’t get the personal notoriety they may seek will stop anyone from committing a violent act they commit to execute.

I feel personally lucky as a former (maybe future) journalist. In my career, I covered just one mass shooting. Four people were killed and two others injured by a man with mental health issues who was able to get a gun. Sound familiar to any number of shooting tragedies that followed and bedeviled our nation?

Violence we see leads to violence committed?

Another argument that the glorification of violence in movies, TV shows and video games leads to violent incidents is also kind of murky in my mind. Granted, I didn’t grow up with today’s technology that allows children easy access to violent games and other entertainment. I did watch cartoons that were pretty graphic for their times. But I’m not sure I’m in a position to say with conviction that what kids watch today can lead to violent adults in the future.

Maybe it’s everything in our modern society. If someone feels victimized or ostracized, different from everyone else, has different views than most people they know, can’t get the help they feel they need and may be entitled to, some may eventually act out. I guess. I’m not in the mind of any mass shooter, so can’t say for sure what their motivation might be.

Hope, prayers and open minds needed

It’s perhaps the most troubling and divisive issue we face these days, given the results of these violent incidents. What it will take to move society beyond the loggerhead issues like gun control is likely something none can foresee. But like so many others, I feel a definite sense of frustration and sometimes hopelessness to find answers.

Yet we can’t give up. While we send thoughts and prayers to the survivors and victims and their families and friends of such heinous acts, we – as a society, as citizens, as elected leaders – need to open our minds and hearts to consider solutions. They may not be all any of us want – and it may mean we can’t proclaim a “victory” on any one issue – but if it prevents one similar mass killing in the years to come, won’t it be worth it? Wouldn’t that be a positive first step towards a better world?

“May God bless the memories of those who were killed today …. may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.” – President Barack Obama, Oct. 1, 2015