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EDITORIAL: America’s real national emergency: Mass shootings

Law enforcement personnel gather near the scene of a shooting at the Henry Pratt company in an industrial park in Aurora, Ill., on Friday. | Bev Horne/Daily Herald via AP

On the very day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency that is nothing but a lie, a horrifically real national emergency played out in Aurora.

Just hours after Trump declared a national emergency on Friday so as to defy the will of Congress and spend billions of dollars on a wall along the southern border, a shooter in Aurora killed five people and injured five police officers. The shooter, Gary Martin, 45, reportedly was killed by the police.

EDITORIAL

We had intended to write about Trump’s fake emergency today. That was our plan. We thought we would make the obvious point that it’s hard to believe there’s an emergency along the border when the president has been whining for his wall for two years, has all his facts wrong and offhandedly acknowledged on Friday — after declaring the emergency — that he “didn’t need” to do so.

But now we have another mass shooting. Not along the border, but in Aurora.

The dishonesty of our national conversation — the manufactured fear of immigrants when the real and present danger is our own violent society and the stupidity of our gun laws — could not be in starker relief.

The shooting in Aurora, at the Henry Pratt Co., where police say Martin was being laid off Friday, happened one year and a day after a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed 17 people and wounded 17 others. Since then, our country has seen almost 350 shootings involving four or more casualties — about one incident a day.

Our nation can never accept gun violence as routine, or a culture that romanticizes gun violence even as it feigns outrage. Try to watch TV for an evening without spotting somebody pointing a gun.

The ease with which Americans can buy guns practically invites violence as a response to all our problems.  Almost three-fourths of the 19,362 homicides in the U.S. in 2016 were gun deaths, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of nearly 45,000 suicides were committed with guns.

Martin had been convicted of a felony that should have prohibited him from possessing a weapon, according to the Aurora Police. He stabbed a woman in Mississippi in 1995, and he’d been arrested by the Aurora Police six times since then, including for violating an order of protection.

But, the police said, Martin’s assault conviction might not have popped up on a criminal background check in 2014 when he was granted a Firearm Owners Identification card — and sold a gun.

Yet the gun lobby’s servants in Washington would tell you that more rigorous background checks are unnecessary.

In the last several months, Illinois has passed three bills to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, but such laws come at a snail’s pace. And they rarely come along at all in Congress.

Democrats in the U.S. House are moving legislation to require background checks on gun sales and almost all gun transfers. The National Rifle Association is opposed to this, of course, which means that even if the bill passes in the House, it has little chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

There is so much more we can do. But until rural areas and more suburban communities join big cities in trying to curb gun violence, we don’t stand much of a chance.

Until gutless lawmakers — mostly Republicans — stand up to the NRA or get run out of office, we’re stuck.

We say these things over and over, as you know. All last summer and into the fall, we ran a special campaign, 31Bullets, just to rally support for saner gun laws.

In the last year alone, we called for gun law reforms after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

And after 4 people were killed in a shooting at a Waffle House in Nashville.

And after 10 people were shot dead at a school in Sante Fe, Texas.

And after 12 people were killed and 59 others were wounded in a flurry of shootings over one weekend in Chicago.

And after five journalists at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, were shot dead at their office.

And after 11 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

And after a man shot and killed a Chicago police officer and two employees at Mercy Hospital on the South Side.

Death by gun in a violence-prone culture is America’s real national emergency.

And until we own up to it, there will be no peace.

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