Thousand Oaks, Calif., a suburban community near Los Angeles, is routinely ranked high on lists such as “Safest Cities in America,” “10 Great Cities to Raise Your Kids” and “The Best 100 Towns in California for Retirement.” None of this stopped a man with known mental health issues from walking into a popular bar Wednesday night with a gun and an extended magazine. Within moments 12 were dead, plus the shooter.
Acts of mass murder have become all but constant. It has not even been two weeks since a man walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 12 Jews gathered for services. Last Friday, just hours after the last funeral of a victim of the Pittsburgh shooting (Rose Mallinger, 97), a man with a history of misogyny online walked into a yoga studio and killed two women in Tallahassee. Just a few months earlier, Maura Binkley, one of the women killed at the yoga studio, and her father were among the many families that swarmed Florida’s state capitol after the Parkland high school massacre in February that left 17 students and teachers dead. Reports have said that several of the Thousand Oaks survivors had escaped the mass shooting that left 58 people dead at a Las Vegas country western festival last year.
An official at California’s Ventura County sherriff’s office, speaking at a news conference Thursday morning, was almost certainly referring to the United States’ seeming epidemic of mass shootings when he said that the killings in Thousand Oaks were “part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere, and I think it’s impossible to put any logic or any sense to the senseless.” Au contraire. There’s actually quite a bit of logic that connects these events, and the other ones that have occurred. All of the shooters possessed a gun. Minus firearms, these shooters have been angry, troubled people who think violent thoughts. It’s the easy ability to obtain firearms that turns them into killers.
Remember all this when you hear the other explanations, for they are almost certainly coming. In Parkland, many have pointed to failures by the school system, which proved incapable of handling the challenge of the troubled teen who allegedly carried out the massacre. The shooter in Pittsburgh marinated in online right-wing hatred. The Tallahassee shooter identified with an angry online coterie known as incels, men who are involuntarily celibate and blame that state on women. We don’t know much yet about the shooter in Thousand Oaks, but the Ventura County sherriff’s office said that he had experienced mental health difficulties. One thing we likely won’t hear, at least this time, is the canard that a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. Among the dead at the Borderline Bar & Grill: a brave Ventura County sheriff’s deputy responding to the massacre who was shot multiple times.
It’s tempting to look for other causes. Many of us likely feel otherwise helpless. Gun violence occurs despite the fact that poll after poll shows that most Americans support significantly increased restrictions on gun ownership. But there is one horrifying massacre after another, and only, at best, small changes are made. Too many politicians remain under the thumb of the National Rifle Association. It took Parkland get the Florida legislature to pass laws that mandate background checks on gun purchasers and ban people younger than 21 from buying guns altogether. Tuesday’s elections did not change much. Yes, a number of gun control advocates scored victories, notably Lucy McBath (D), who defeated NRA-endorsed Rep. Karen Handel (R) in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. But in Florida, the mass organizing by the Parkland students was not able to prevent NRA-backed Rick Scott (R) and Ron DeSantis (R) from apparently winning their elections for the Senate and the governor’s office, respectively.
As for President Trump, he spent weeks talking up a fictional threat from a caravan of desperate immigrants, and rails against “American carnage,” while refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of the ongoing homegrown and all too real and horrifying threat of our lack of effective gun control. On Thursday morning he tweeted, “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.” This is a failure of politics and morality. The time for bromides and excuses is long past. This is no way to live — or, increasingly, die.