Reporter's Notebook

The Certainty of More Shootings
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James Fallows leads an ongoing discussion with readers on the inevitability (or otherwise) of mass shootings in the U.S. To join in, drop us a note:

Show 18 Newer Notes

How to Turn Panic Over Terrorism Against the NRA (Hint: Arm Muslims)

I’ve received a flood of mail in response to the Oregon shooting and this item on whether the United States is doomed to be the only developed nation that tolerates mass-fatality shootings as routine.

The message quoted below is related to the evocative photo above, showing the moment in 1967 when armed Black Panthers marched into the California state capitol building in Sacramento. (This moment is also part of a great new documentary on the Black Panthers,  which its director Stanley Nelson discussed with our editor James Bennet at the Washington Ideas Forum this week.) This reader imagines what it would be like if today’s Muslims applied a similar approach:

One sentence in your article reminded me of an idea a friend and I have had for a couple of years to combat the NRA.  "[The President] highlighting the disproportion between America’s sky-is-falling sensitivity to the slightest potential risk that could be defined as 'terrorism' versus its blasé acceptance of unending home-grown killings."  What if gun control advocates combined the two and exploited that terrorism sensitivity?   

One evening, my friend, who happens to be of Indian and Sri Lankan descent, noted the potential hypocrisy of many Second Amendment supporters in that all hell would likely break loose if he walked the streets with an AR-15.  

Umpqua Community College alumnus Donice Smith (L) is embraced after one of her former teachers was shot dead. (Steve Dipaola / Reuters)

Three years ago, after the then-latest horrific mass shooting (the one in Aurora, Colorado), I did a short, angry Atlantic item called “The Certainty of More Shootings.” It ended this way:

There will be more of these; we absolutely know it; we also know that we will not change the circumstances that allow such episodes to recur. I am an optimist about most things, but not about this. Everyone around the world understands this reality too. It is the kind of thing that makes them consider America dangerous, and mad.

After that came: the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, with six people killed; the shooting in a business office in Minneapolis, with six people killed; the shooting in a hair salon in Wisconsin, with three people killed; the Sandy Hook / Newtown elementary school massacre, with 27 children and teachers shot to death; the shooting at Santa Monica College in California, with five people killed; the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, with 13 people killed; the shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas, with three people killed (which was different from the earlier Ft. Hood shooting, with 13 people killed); the shooting at UC Santa Barbara, with 7 people killed; the shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, with nine people killed; the on-air shooting of two TV reporters in Virginia; yesterday’s shooting outside Roseburg, Oregon, with ten people killed; and of course the countless other gun-death episodes.

I bet you had forgotten some of these.