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OpinionEditorial

Gun carnage returns

People are led out of a King Soopers

People are led out of a King Soopers grocery store after a shooting in the store on Monday in Boulder, Colo. Credit: AP/Hart Van Denburg

As America climbs out from its coronavirus nightmare, it finds itself beset again by one of its most intractable evils.

This time, the dateline was Boulder, Colorado. This time, the house of horror was a local supermarket. This time, the number of those shot dead was 10. But those are details. In most respects, what unfolded Monday night was another embodiment of a gut-wrenching drama we've seen far too many times.

Another series of 911 calls with frantic pleas for help, another swarm of police, another young man with another semiautomatic weapon, another group of shellshocked innocents scrambling to get away, another group of devastated families reeling from the incomprehensible loss of loved ones, another heartbreaking series of news conferences outlining the grim calculus of death, another American president consoling the nation.

This time, the victims included a police officer with seven children. A 61-year-old man anticipating the birth of a granddaughter. A 25-year-old outdoors lover and manager at the grocery store. A retired former photo director for magazines like Glamour.

Some of those shot and some who survived were in the King Soopers grocery store to get lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine shots — a cruel irony of people seeking to shield themselves and unwittingly putting themselves in a different harm's way, grief subsuming joy in a lost heartbeat.

The nation's second mass shooting in less than a week follows the killing last week of eight people, six of them Asian American women, at three spas or massage parlors in Atlanta. Only two public mass shootings took place in 2020, both before the pandemic took root in mid-March, the lowest in more than a decade. There were nine and 10 such shootings, respectively, in 2019 and 2018. And so we must face the awful implication that returning to some semblance of normalcy brings with it the return of the unspeakable violence that is part of our national fiber.

In the past year, we learned to protect ourselves from an invisible enemy. Many of us can take pride in our actions, knowing that we made a difference. Can we as a nation evoke that shared sense of achievement and demand that we finally do something to protect ourselves from the scourge of gun violence? We can, and we must.

U.S. Senate hearings Tuesday on constitutional and sensible gun control measures included the usual unhelpful partisan braying, but also focused on universal background checks. That's encouraging. Such checks plus a three-day waiting period are overwhelmingly supported by Americans. They deprive no one of their rights nor confiscate any guns. President Joe Biden endorsed those moves and added a call for a ban on assault weapons. Whether those or any other solutions would have averted this or that particular incident is a meaningless debate when many Americans desperately and rightly need to see that some progress is being made against gun violence.

Doing nothing will leave us perpetually chilled, waiting for the next outburst that certainly will come.

— The editorial board

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