The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become—for those not directly affected by tragedy—ritualised and then blend into the background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely that America’s political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.
“He was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites,” Mr. [Joseph] Meek said. “I could tell there was something inside him, there was something he wouldn’t let go. I was trying to tell him, ‘What’s wrong?’ All he would say was that he was planning to do something crazy.”At first Mr. Meek said he did not take [the murderer] seriously. But he became worried enough that several weeks ago he took away and hid [the murderer’s] .45-caliber handgun, which [the murderer] had bought with money given to him by his parents for his 21st birthday. But at the urging of his girlfriend, Mr. Meek returned the weapon because he was on probation and did not want to get into trouble.Now Mr. Meek and his girlfriend, Lindsey Fry, both of whom are white, say they feel guilt about the shooting. “I feel we could have done something and prevented this whole thing,” Ms. Fry said.
Another friend, Dalton Tyler, said that [the murderer] had begun talking about wanting “to start a civil war.” But like Mr. Meek, he did not always take [the murderer] seriously.Mr. Tyler said on another occasion, the two were driving to a strip club by the zoo when [the murderer] saw a black woman, used a racist word and said, “I’ll shoot your ass.”“I was just like, ‘You’re stupid,’ ” Mr. Tyler said. “He was a racist; but I don’t judge people.” (emphasis added)