Tragedy typically unites Americans.
It’s part of our history; it’s in our blood.
We saw it happen following 9/11. It was there when the Challenger exploded. We came together when an assassin’s bullet cut down John F. Kennedy. And we showed our might following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Such resilience in the face of adversity is a cornerstone of what makes this nation great.
That’s why perhaps the greatest danger in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso is that instead of bringing this country together, it will divide us even further than we’ve witnessed with the political polarization of recent years.
We’re seeing that now as people get caught up in the blame game and politicians try to squeeze political gain from those horrifying two days in August.
It’s shameful almost all of the Democrat presidential candidates are trying to use the tragedy to score political points and raise money by blaming President Donald Trump for the shooting.
Let’s be clear right now.
Trump does not carry the blame for what happened in Dayton or El Paso. That blame lands on the twisted minds of the two men who carried out the cold-blooded killings.
This in no way means we are condoning the belittling venom that too often is spouted from the mouth of our president. Such nastiness keeps Trump from providing the moral leadership and civility this country needs.
But starting with Columbine, more than 100 mass shootings have taken place while four different presidents — two Democrats and two Republicans — held office. The murders have always been followed by intense public debate about what can be done, only to see meaningful action yield to politics. We cannot let that happen again. As Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley so eloquently said Thursday, “Politics seems very petty when it is your friends and neighbors who are injured or dead.”
President Trump called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday to discuss several ideas. McConnell said the president is “anxious to get an outcome, and so am I.” The so-called “red flag” laws and background checks topped their discussion.
“What we can’t do is to fail to pass something,” McConnell remarked.
What also can’t happen is a solution that tramples on the rights of citizens.
Red flag laws authorize courts to issue a protection order that allows police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or to others. Often, the request for the order comes from relatives or friends concerned about a loved one who owns guns and has expressed suicidal thoughts or discussed shooting people.
The worry about red flag laws is they can go too far in allowing courts to confiscate guns from people who have not committed a crime. They also can strip the right to due process of law from those people. It’s difficult to quantify how effective they are because no one knows for certain the number of killings that are prevented. Officials in several states, however, do say that when mass shootings make headlines, they see more requests for confiscations.
Public support for tougher background checks carries a lot of support. How a mentally unstable person can legally purchase an assault rifle — as the shooter legally did in Dayton — is beyond comprehension.
A national Public Policy Polling survey of gun owners found an overwhelming 82 percent of those surveyed support tougher background checks and would not object to a political candidate who moves them forward. So far, however, background checks have been problematic. The information being searched for isn’t always complete, up-to-date or accurate. The process is not “universal” under federal law or in most states. In most cases there are no provisions for private individuals who sell guns out of their collection.
We are certain of one thing, though.
With one mass shooting after another in recent years, political leaders must find a way to take preventive action without trampling on constitutional rights.