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Geography has become a macabre marker: Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas—sites of mass shootings. Add tiny Sutherland Springs, Texas, where another massacre happened at a church November5th. From his tour of Asian countries, President Trump didn't wait “to get the facts” but, immediately declared “Sutherland Springs is not a guns situation...it's about mental health at the highest level.”

Gun Crazy

No “Trump-care” bills removed obstacles to accessing mental health care—or they made it even harder to do so.

When the perpetrator is Muslim (such as the New York City truck attack), politicians immediately generate policy responses. If the Texas shooter were Muslim, Trump and other politicians would demand more surveillance, more security measures, more policing, perhaps, even more U.S. bombing of more countries.

When domestic mass-killers are white men (as they nearly always are), when motives are not linked to international groups, when guns are used—not explosives or terrorist tactics like using vehicles as weapons—the standard response is “It's too soon to talk about what to do.”

Yet, when domestic mass-killers are white men (as they nearly always are), when motives are not linked to international groups, when guns are used—not explosives or terrorist tactics like using vehicles as weapons—the standard response is “It's too soon to talk about what to do.”

One consistent omission from public discussion after gun massacres is domestic violence: FBI figures from 2009 to 2015 show 57% of killers had domestic violence histories.

In 1972, the first U.S. battered women's shelter opened in St. Paul, Minnesota. Only half the beds needed have ever been funded. Forty-five years talking about “private violence” and people still ask, “Why didn't she leave?” not “Why does he feel entitled to assault her?”

Since some batterers expand their target-range to random strangers in public spaces, might domestic violence be recognized as an early warning for mass shootings?

The Texas shooter's history of domestic violence and involuntary hospitalization for mental illness should have blocked gun purchases. But, a background check is only meaningful if information is available. The Air Force failed to report the shooter's conviction for beating his wife, fracturing the skull of his toddler step-son, the hospitalization due to the shooter's threats to sneak weapons on the military base and kill his superior officers. The shooter's Bad Conduct Discharge protected soldiers, but, the DoD has only reported one domestic violence case to National Instant Background Check System (NICS). There was a similar failure with Charleston's white supremacist murderer at an African-American church: delayed notification of drug charges, which stop gun-purchases, barely eluded the 3-day background-check time-period.

Between 70% and 90% of gun-owners support expanding background checks and making them more effective; yet, inadequate funding or only voluntary reporting standards for felons, domestic violence and mental illness in many states,insure guns get into the wrong hands. Congress refuses to act, since an National Rifle Association's “grade A” vetoes common sense consensus.

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Republicans in Congress proposed legalizing silencers until the Las Vegas shooting made it unseemly to push forward. How much higher would the 58 people killed and almost 500 wounded body-count have grown if the sounds of gun-shots had been muted that night? Re-introducing the silencer bill for 2018 mid-term campaigns is likely.

Lawmakers quickly dumped debate on banning even something as obvious as banning devices that take a legal semi-automatic weapon andconvert it to be able to operate like an illegal automatic weapon---the “bump stocks” used in Las Vegas.

Banning gun-magazines holding up to 100 bullets—making enormous carnage inevitable—are taboo for “conservatives”—who's allegedly “pro-life” position doesn't include saving the already-born from militarized mass-murder in public places.

Our national budget, includes a bipartisan $700+ billion for the military, with foreign parallels to the domestic gun market. There are 88 guns for every 100 Americans. Under Trump, foreign arms sales double. The NRA functions as a trade lobby (funded by gun-manufacturers more than members), fabricating fears that “politicians will take your guns”—even as “gun rights” keep expanding. A similar pattern appears to be at work when it comes to international gun sale—where the U.S. is #1.

In September, a State Department official told Politico "It is about making sure we are doing everything we can to promote the competitiveness of American trade,"

To distract from the fact that white men commit most mass shootings, we get “what about?” arguments: “What about black-on-black crime?” or “What about Chicago?”—shorthand for racist finger-pointing that refuses to consider any solutions for any of the gun violence that plagues our country. Even addressing illegal gun-trafficking is stonewalled. Although some “urban” gun violence is related to “gangs”, most are “personal beefs” over jealousy, small debts or “disrespect”. Settling arguments with guns crosses racial lines. What was once settled with fists is now met with firearms. Since 2015, road rage shootings doubled.

No one claims that all gun-murders or mass shootings can be prevented, but, by now, it's undeniable we can lower deaths and injuries.Obviously, we can improve blocking dangerous people from getting guns, by repairing the background check systems. Just as women's exposing sexual harassment and rape urge men to not be bystanders, perhaps, we should call on responsible gun-owners to more loudly weigh in—especially with their expertise on gun “accessories” that escalate casualties.

Examining the “culture of violence” within our homes, on our streets and in our foreign policy is a longer term proposition, but, it's overdue to start. Whether some Black youth or rural white men or the president of the United States, too many Americans' identity defines “strength” as the use of force to address conflicts.

After the latest gun massacre, “Too soon to talk about what to do” always translates to “never” and the NRA's $300M annual budget and their ability to sway voters, buys a lot of politicians' silence—making reasonable voices for addressing gun-violence all the more urgent.

lydia howell

Lydia Howell