Killings of Journalists Bring Gun Violence to Dark New Level
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
The New York Times
AUG. 26, 2015
Continue reading the main story It is an increasingly horrific fact of life and death in the United States that easily available guns offer troubled Americans the power to act out their grievances in public. This trend, dramatized in recent years by macabre shootings in schools, churches, movie theaters and workplaces, was taken to a dark new level on Wednesday in southwestern Virginia by a disturbed former reporter who chose not only to murder two journalists as they reported live for a television station that had fired him, but also to record and broadcast the crime on social media.
By the numbers, the shooting was routine for this nation — three dead when the gunman finally killed himself hours after walking up and aiming at a TV reporter and her cameraman, as they broadcast a routine live interview to their WDBJ audience. What was distinctive and disturbing about this tragedy was the staging, how he filmed it and how quickly he made sure to alert his social media followers to watch the clip that showed him aiming a pistol point-blank at the two innocents and then shooting them with repeated volleys of gunfire.
“I filmed the shooting see Facebook,” the gunman announced to his followers on Twitter. Many did before the grisly recording was taken down.
The questioning that follows the shootings that routinely scar, yet only occasionally shock, a nation grown hard to them include the question of motive: Why would he do such a terrible thing? In so many cases, and certainly in this premeditated massacre, the answer seems to be that, amid a mass of unfathomable grievances, the power to be seen killing innocents with one of the guns so easily obtained around the country proves irresistible as the ultimate outlet for an individual’s frustration and rage. In this case, the outlet provided by social media appears to have whetted his murderous appetites.
Many politicians will focus on the gunman’s troubled personality and try to cast this shooting as a summons for better mental health care, certainly not gun control. Yet that ignores a grim reality: the estimated 300 million guns in America owned by a third of the population, far more per capita than any other modern nation. Guns are ubiquitous and easy to acquire, as statehouse politicians, particularly Republicans, genuflect to the gun lobby to weaken, not tighten, gun safety.
We all know no change is likely, for all the social media grotesquerie. The woeful truth underlying this latest shooting is more mundane than alarming. There are too many guns, and too little national will to do anything about them.