The images from El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have been tough to watch and comprehend.
Twenty-nine Americans, people just like us in Athens and Limestone County, woke up that morning. They spent time with their families. They talked to friends and relatives. They lived their lives just like we do.
By the time the sun rose Sunday morning, 29 people were dead — 20 in El Paso and nine in Dayton. Two more El Paso victims died Monday.
This community grieves with theirs. This newspaper, however, is short on answers or recommendations to solve the growing crisis of gun violence.
According to a report from Time magazine, there have been 62 deaths in mass shootings this year. That number doesn't include instances of domestic violence with more than one fatality or gang-related shootings.
With each passing year, the issue of gun violence seemingly becomes more complicated. These mass shootings, as with others, always raise the same questions:
• Do we need common-sense gun legislation? Yes.
• Do we need more stringent background checks that also take social media posts into account? Yes.
• Do we need more resources for the mentally ill? Yes.
• Do we need to ban assault-type weapons? It's a conversation worth having.
These incidents keep happening because those with the power to make positive changes don't seem motivated to do so. They also happen because people often fail to recognize warning signs, whether in a potential shooter's rhetoric or social media activity.
“We've got to do better” is a worthless sentiment. We need more than thoughts and prayers.
There are people who believe the issue of mass shootings is a Right vs. Left debate, but that thinking cheapens the lives of those who died. What's the value of any one of the victims when debating issues that could curb gun violence? What's the value of the blood they shed? What's the value of a life that could be a victim of gun violence?
We need to figure out that value fast, for the sake of our loved ones and ourselves. It's only a matter of time before the tragedy hits closer to home. We owe it to all innocent people who have died from gun violence to implement common-sense solutions as soon as possible.
Members of The News Courier's editorial board had plenty to say on the matter. They shared their thoughts on this complex issue, and we're pleased to present their varied opinions.
“Rational people of this country together can put an end to the culture of violence, hatred and white nationalism,” Hanu Karlapalem said.
Kelly Range said, “I believe we all should take a inward look and ask yourself, 'What can I do to make this world a better place without guns or violence?' White nationalism, left extremism or any radical stance involved with violence towards others should be shut down and stopped now.”
Ralph Diggins acknowledged there is plenty of hate and vitriol in the country right now, but he's not confident it can be eliminated because “people are people.” He instead believes we should approach the issue from a legal standpoint and from teaching young people how to be tolerant.
“We need to take legal action regarding weapon ownership, sales, associated penalties, etc. People's attitudes must change. It begins at home and must be carried out through society.”
Caren Sample explained that if one person hates someone else bad enough to want to kill, he or she would use any weapon. Sample pointed out planes, bombs, knives, vehicles, poison and even rocks have been used to murder someone else.
“All these are simply tools. They do not kill. The person using them kills. Put any of these in the hands of hate, and yes, they are deadly. Making them illegal will not stop them from being used," she said. "Prohibition is proof positive that making something illegal will not stop it. Our rampant drug problem in this country is proof positive. Our human trafficking problem is proof positive.
"Laws are only good if people obey them. Hate does not obey laws. The heart of this issue is hate, and the only way to combat it is to reach the heart. 'Love Thy Neighbor' is universal."