TOO MANY doors. Abortion. Video games. Ritalin. Those are some of the explanations trotted out by Republicans and the National Rifle Association in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Tex. The willingness to say anything — no matter how ludicrous — would be laughable if not for the fact that 10 people are dead and that refusing to acknowledge the role played by this country’s lax gun laws only paves the way for the next tragedy.
Most of those killed as classes were getting underway at Santa Fe High School were students looking forward to the start of summer. Among them: Jared Black, who had just turned 17 and had been planning to celebrate with a weekend pool party; Shana Fisher, a 16-year-old who found joy in art and music; Sabika Sheikh, an exchange student from Pakistan about to return home. To toss off their deaths as a result of too much Ritalin, as incoming NRA head Oliver North did, or abortions, an argument from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), avoids needed discussion of issues that have resulted, as The Post reported, in more people being killed at schools in the United States this year than service members killed while serving in the military.
Friday’s school shooting underscores that there are no simple solutions. There seem to have been no clear warning signs about the suspected shooter, a 17-year-old who had made the honor roll and once played on the school football team. The weapons he allegedly used were a shotgun loaded with buckshot and a .38-caliber revolver his father had legally obtained, not a semiautomatic rifle. Opponents of gun control have seized on these factors as evidence of the futility of expanded background checks or an assault weapons ban. But it has always been understood that no single measure will be the answer for every crime.
There are some hopeful signs. Companies increasingly are concluding that guns make for bad business, and states long loath to control guns, Vermont and Florida, have enacted modest reforms. Even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) conceded that thoughts and prayers — the traditional official nonresponse to mass shootings — are no longer enough. “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” he said. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas.”
The next step is to acknowledge this reality: What sets the United States apart from the rest of the civilized world is not Ritalin or school entrances or violent video games but the astronomical number of guns and the easy access to them.