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OpinionEditorial

America mustn’t grow numb to gun violence

People comfort each other Thursday near the scene

People comfort each other Thursday near the scene of a gun massacre at a bar the night before in Thousand Oaks, California. Photo Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

When Jason Coffman learned of the Wednesday night shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, he immediately turned to his cellphone.

Like so many parents, Jason has an app to track the whereabouts of his 22-year-old son, Cody. It was his way to know his son was safe.

On Thursday morning, the app showed Cody’s phone was still at Borderline, and hadn’t moved. Just hours before, Coffman had told Cody he loved him and said goodbye, hoping his son wouldn’t drink and drive after a night with friends.

But then came a horrific hail of gunfire at the bar — and the news hours later that Cody and 11 others had been killed.

Like schools, houses of worship, workplaces and music festivals before it, now Borderline is a place whose sheen of safety is shattered. A week and a half ago, it was a synagogue in Pittsburgh, leaving grandchildren mourning grandparents killed during a morning of Sabbath prayers. Now parents are mourning children killed during a night of music and line dancing.

We’ve reached a sickening point — some of those who survived the Borderline shooting also had survived the 2017 mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. The country music that so often brings people together for fun now links some in horror.

It’s easy, perhaps too easy, to wake up to the stunning news of yet another mass shooting and turn away, perhaps unsurprised and even a bit numb. But we mustn’t become anesthetized to the grainy cellphone videos punctured by the sound of gunfire or the images of people fleeing. This shouldn’t be routine; this isn’t normal. We still must be shocked, we still must be horrified. Every. Single. Time.

Sustaining that emotion becomes all the more difficult when there are no simple solutions. In this case, the gunman was identified as Ian David Long, who served in the Marines as a machine gunner with a deployment to Afghanistan. Long’s handgun was legal, although it apparently included an extended magazine. Neighbors and law enforcement officials said the suspect had a history of mental health troubles. As recently as last spring, mental health professionals had spoken to the suspect but concluded he was not a danger to himself or others.

The lack of a clear path to ending this epidemic doesn’t mean there aren’t important conversations to be had, particularly about the need to care for our veterans and to determine what more can be done when someone is identified as having emotional problems and also possesses a weapon.

We must continue to find ways to better protect ourselves and our children. And we must honestly confront the questions about what in our country, our culture or our interactions with one another allows this to become so intolerably common.

We must not shield our eyes or change the channel. We must watch and listen. We must mourn, and we must be outraged.

— The editorial board

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