In a nation beset by massacres, there’s only one side to be on

In a nation beset by massacres, there’s only one side to be on

Jessica (L) and Kalani Windham leave flowers and a candle outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting which left at least 22 people dead, on August 4, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. A 21-year-old male suspect, identified as Patrick Crusius from a Dallas suburb, surrendered to police at the scene. At least 26 people were wounded in the shooting. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I have nothing particularly new, trenchant or poignant to say on our great, intractable gun debate, the latest slew of firearm massacres or our bigoted president’s dangerous rhetoric.

My past thoughts on the numbing frequency of mass shootings and guns are here, here and here. And I haven’t made a secret of how I feel about Donald Trump’s fitness for office or what he says about immigrants and others who don’t fit in his MAGA vision.

Rather, I would have you think about Jordan and Andre Anchondo, heading to the Walmart in El Paso with their 2-month-old baby to buy school supplies and party decorations for their children, one of those mundane moments we all take for granted in our daily lives, preparing for something else, looking forward to a coming happy occasion.

That would be the last moment they would ever have, shot to death as they attempted to shield their infant from yet another American mass killer, armed with a semiautomatic rifle and extended magazines, apparently motivated by white supremacist fears of “a Hispanic invasion.” 

“From the baby’s injuries, they said that more than likely my sister was trying to shield him,” Leta Jamrowski told the Associated Press. “So when she got shot she was holding him and she fell on him, so that’s why he broke some of his bones. So he pretty much lived because she gave her life.”

Think of 6-year-old Stephen Romero, one of two children killed in the mass shooting at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., playing near a bounce house before he was shot in the back.

Then, turn to Dayton, Ohio, where the motives of the man who killed nine people and wounded more than two dozen more with a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a 100-round drum are still murky. That’s where an angry crowd shouted down Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s post-massacre platitudes with a two-word chant that we all should adopt: “Do something.”

If your reaction to the mass killings of innocents is to continue to paper over the virulent fear and loathing of “the other” poisoning conservativism; to twist yourself into knots defending our president’s incessant attempts to stoke division; to continue to spout nonsense about “good guys with guns,” gun-free zones and defending against tyranny; or to stand at a rally in a red hat and shout “send her back,” stop and take a deep breath.

Most importantly, just stop.

We live in a time and place where men, women and children are gunned down in public places with horrific regularity, where some of the El Paso victims were reportedly afraid of seeking medical treatment because of their immigration status, where white nationalist violence is so alarmingly ascendant that the editors of the conservative National Review published an editorial Sunday exhorting Americans to “crush this evil.”

A society that countenances so many atrocities can no longer even pretend to consider itself civilized.

If you’re OK with it, I probably can’t convince you to change your mind. If you can’t bear to part with your 30-round magazine, even if there’s a chance a ban might spare another parent from having to gaze upon the bodies of their children perforated with bullets, as happened at Sandy Hook, or submit to mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms if it might help prevent the straw purchases and trafficking that fuel gang killings and other gun crime, so be it.

But I suspect there are more people like me than you. And because of your obstinacy, our patience with politicians who continue to sit on the wrong side of the fence is running out. The proffered solutions — universal background checks, high capacity magazine bans, red-flag laws, safe storage, mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns, among others — are imperfect.

However, because they cannot prevent every conceivable instance of gun violence is no reason to do nothing. Thoughts, prayers and hearts going out into the empty ether of social media have long since become a joke, especially for politicians who can’t be bothered to come with new ways to phrase their empty gestures for each mass shooting.

Do something.

Robert Zullo is the Editor-in-Chief of the Virginia Mercury, where this commentary originally appeared.