Elementary schools. College campuses. Churches. Military bases. Movie theaters. Health clinics. And now a center in California that helps children and adults with developmental disabilities.
It seems there’s no place that people with guns won’t go. This one just hit close to home.
We still don’t know everything about what happened inside the sprawling Inland Regional Services center in San Bernardino on Wednesday morning.
We know that at least 14 people are dead and that at least 17 others were injured. We know that as many as three gunman are to blame. We know they arrived in a dark-colored SUV and entered the building carrying long guns.
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We know that Inland Regional Services, the largest in California’s network of 21 regional centers, is filled with caseworkers who connect people with disabilities with the services they need. But we know the gunmen zeroed-in on a conference room where the San Bernardino County Public Health Department was hosting a holiday party.
As a country and a people, we must reckon with the fact that these types of gun tragedies simply don’t happen as often in other countries. Other countries have evil people. Other countries have violent people. But our country stands nearly alone in the rate of people murdered with guns.
We also know that this doesn’t feel like the dozens – or, depending on your method for counting, hundreds – of other mass shootings in United States in recent years.
This wasn’t a lone, mentally disturbed gunman intent on wreaking havoc, which is something that we’ve somehow come to understand. But this was something else. Something scarier.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan made that clear at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. The gunmen, he said, “were dressed and equipped in a way that indicate they were prepared. ... They came prepared to do what they did, as if they were on a mission. They came in with a purpose.”
The root of the problem is this: America allows too many guns to fall into the hands of too many people who shouldn’t have them. It’s one reason we have the dubious distinction of leading the world in mass shootings.
As President Obama said: “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world, and there’s some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently.”
America allows too many guns to fall into the hands of too many people who shouldn’t have them. It’s one reason we have the dubious distinction of leading the world in mass shootings.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions
In a joint statement issued Wednesday, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a victim of a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that left her with severe brain injuries, and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, said:
“As we wait to learn exactly what happened and why, we are holding the San Bernardino community in our thoughts. We grieve for those lost, pray for strength for the injured, and hope for comfort for those whose loved ones were taken from them today.
“We are grateful to the first responders who are serving bravely and working to end these murderers’ rampage and ensure they see justice.
“We want to repeat something we said just last week after the tragedy in Colorado Springs: As a country and a people, we must reckon with the fact that these types of gun tragedies simply don’t happen as often in other countries. Other countries have evil people. Other countries have violent people. But our country stands nearly alone in the rate of people murdered with guns.
“America is an extraordinary place. But these tragedies make us stand out in the worst of ways.
“This is not the America we strive for. We have to do better. And we can.”
Sadly, for many Americans, these shootings, these acts of domestic terrorism, have become just that. Normal. Today, everyone knows what “an active shooter situation” means.
Changing this will require doing all of the things we already know we must do. Stricter gun laws, better services for the mentally ill and summoning the political willpower to do both.