“This shouldn’t happen in Troutdale. You don’t expect something like that to happen in your hometown.” That was the reaction of one resident of the Oregon town where a 15-year-old high school student armed with an AR-15 rifle killed a 14-year-old boy before shooting himself.
He is right. Such senseless violence shouldn’t happen. Not in Troutdale or Newtown or Columbine or Blacksburg or Seattle or Tucson or Las Vegas or Santa Barbara or the Washington Navy Yard or, for that matter, any place in the United States. But he’s wrong about what to expect: It’s clear from the countless locales that have been scarred by gun violence that no place is really safe. That’s because Congress refuses — even in the face of increasingly frequent shootings — to even consider, let alone enact, any kind of responsible gun control.
Hours after Tuesday’s shooting at Troutdale’s Reynolds High School, President Barack Obama gave voice to the frustration of not being able to get gun control legislation passed. He said it was “stunning” to him that Congress failed to tighten gun laws in the aftermath of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here was a situation in which 20 children — most of them 6 years old — were gunned down, and Congress couldn’t muster the courage to oppose the gun lobby and pass even modest legislation, supported by a majority of Americans, to require universal background checks for all gun purchases.
Obama’s comments during a question-and-answer session hosted by Tumblr were his most extensive remarks on guns in recent months. Most telling was how he spoke about the almost numbing regularity of indiscriminate mass shootings in the country. “We’re the only developed country on earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week, and it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this,” he said. “This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.”
As to suggestions by some opponents of gun control that shortcomings in the country’s mental health system are to blame, Mr. Obama pointed out the United States “does not have a monopoly on crazy people,” only on the unfettered access to weapons it gives people capable of doing unbelievable damage.
Good for Obama for speaking forcefully and calling on the country as a whole to do some “soul searching.” A Congress that’s more terrified of the National Rifle Association than another Sandy Hook needs to be pushed to change by a public willing to vote out those who won’t act.