THE 57-year-old man charged in the murderous shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado allegedly made remarks to police about “no more baby parts.” That has led some to speculate that antiabortion rhetoric sparked the rampage. The suspect’s history of aberrant behavior prompted others to theorize that mental illness was the culprit. In the early stages of the investigation, we don’t know what, if any, role was played by either of these factors. In the meantime it is worth restating the obvious: The one factor common to every terrible case of gun violence is access to guns.
A police officer, an Iraq war veteran and a young mother of two were killed, and nine other people were wounded, in last week’s attack at the health clinic in Colorado Springs. Such mass shootings are all too sickeningly familiar. On the very same Friday after Thanksgiving, two people were killed and two injured in a shooting in Sacramento. In the very same community of Colorado Springs a month ago, a shooter gunned down three people targeted at random before being gunned down himself by police.
So far this year, according to news reports collected by a Reddit community, there have been at least 351 mass shootings, or more than one a day. Those account for just a small part of the lives lost or damaged by gun violence. They don’t include, for example, in recent weeks the 6-year-old Georgia girl who apparently shot herself in the head after finding a loaded gun tucked in a couch, or the Ohio State University employee who shot himself in a campus art gallery, or the Tennessee woman murdered by her husband, who then killed himself.
Nearly 300 people are shot every day in the United States in murders, assaults, attempted and successful suicides and unintentional shootings. The numbers are so appalling that they become numbing. Easy access to guns is a major threat to U.S. public health. It is also such a political challenge that the natural inclination is to move on to other topics: mental-health care, incendiary rhetoric, violent video games. We do not dismiss the importance of any of those. But we also believe the country should not lose focus on what makes us unique in the world: the senseless availability of, as President Obama referred to them, “weapons of war.”
The answers, as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” aren’t easy or obvious, but he is right to demand a lot more thinking about issues associated with guns. “You know, “ he said, “I’m not willing to say, ‘Well, we will just have to sit back and accept this as a cost of freedom.’ ” The daily carnage cannot be acceptable.