Another mass shooting rocks the United States – this time the worst such slaughter in American history, with 50 dead and at least 53 wounded – and again the nation goes through the grim ritual. The president extends the nation’s condolences. Gun rights and gun control forces argue. The public listens and tries to make sense of the senseless.
And then nothing happens.
There is apparently no level of gun violence that will give the National Rifle Association pause. The number of dead in the Orlando nightclub massacre is almost twice the number of victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Nothing happened then. Nothing is likely to happen now.
Most Americans favor more control on guns – and nearly half want to end sales of the assault-style rifles that were used in Newtown and Orlando. But the NRA and the cowardly members of Congress it intimidates will not take action to better screen who can purchase a gun and to restore a ban on the sale of assault-style rifles.
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Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has boldly taken on the NRA and called for steps to reduce gun violence. On Sunday, she said in a statement that the mass shooting was an act of terror against the United States and an act of hate against gay people, but it was also about easy access to high-powered weapons.
The NRA and other gun rights advocates will say the carnage was about the gunman, not the gun. And this gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, an American citizen of Afghan descent who lived in Fort Pierce, Fla., was supportive of the Islamic State and carrying out its call for attacks in the United States. There also will be talk about the Muslim faith and attitudes toward people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But in the end, a telling aspect of what happened in Orlando early Sunday may be the shooting that preceded it in Orlando Friday night. In that case, a 27-year-old man fatally shot the singer and YouTube star Christina Grimmie, 22, while she signed autographs at a concert venue. Grimmie’s brother, Marcus, tackled the shooter, Kevin James Loibl, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who was armed with two handguns. Loibl then shot himself dead.
“[It is] unknown what his plans were for after killing Christina, but very heroic actions by Marcus Grimmie to jump in could have prevented loss of life there,” said Orlando police Chief John Mina.
Two nights, two troubled men travel to Orlando with murderous intent and guns in hand. It happens too often in America. It’s time to demand that Congress at least try to stem the carnage.