On Sunday, America bore witness once again to a senseless slaughter. At a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a gunman murdered six and wounded three others before being shot and killed by a police officer.
The incident, which is currently being classified as a possible episode of domestic terrorism, occurred just over two weeks after the tragic slayings perpetrated by James Eagan Holmes at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Also, with macabre irony, the Sikh murders fell on the day after the announcement of Tucson, Arizona, gunman Jared Lee Loughner’s decision to plead guilty to 49 criminal offenses, including the attempted murder of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Amid growing concerns of movie theaters adopting airport-like security measures and general disappointment with responses from both parties in the aftermath of the Aurora shootings, the incident exacerbates an already frustrating problem. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the violence at the Sikh temple, it’s clear – as it has been for some time – that gun violence and the prevalence of firearms in our society are problems in dire need of consideration.
Here’s a quick recap of some modern massacres: the progenitor of mass murders was the 1999 Columbine massacre. That black event was succeeded by shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Northern Illinois University in 2008, and Tucson, Arizona, in 2011 – where Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the head during a “Congress On Your Corner” event.
Those, of course, are only the most publicized incidences of gun violence in the United States. Thousands of other Americans are shot and killed annually. In 2010 alone, of the 12,996 reported murders, firearms caused 8,775. This year, more people were murdered in Chicago than in war-torn Afghanistan, many as a result of rampant gun violence on Chicago’s South and West sides.
Indeed, it was a mere two weeks ago that I expressed my discontent with the state of public discourse with regard to firearms. For the record, I am cognizant of the Second Amendment and understand why some feel the need to own weapons; I cannot, however, understand why rational discussion about curbing gun violence is anathema or why so many presume the issue a zero-sum game. Most of all, I wonder how many episodes of gun violence, how many murdered Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh; white, black; male, female; young, old – it will take for our leaders to approach the issue from all angles: the prevalence of weapons, mental illness, and security, to name a few.
Liberty and safety, freedom and rationality need not be mutually exclusive. Things can change for the better. All it takes is diligence for all parties involved.