The Tragedy of Sutherland Springs

The horrific mass shooting in Texas which left 26 men, women and children dead, and 20 more wounded, has written the name of another American city in blood. Added to the list of recent massacres in Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas is now the tiny Texas town of Sutherland Springs.

First and foremost, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims of this terrible attack and to all the residents of this close-knit community.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents part of the area, said in a statement that “the people of Sutherland Springs are as fine an example of Texans and Americans as you will find anywhere in the country.”

Long after the news of the attack will fade from the headlines, they will continue to grieve their losses and deal with the aftereffects of the trauma they have endured.

“This is something that happens in a big city,” was how one local resident who works at a nearby gas station from where she heard the gunfire, told NBC. “I would never have thought this would have taken place here. It’s just too tight a community.”

While the belief that one is safer in a small rural area is untestable, history has shown that horrendous acts of violence don’t spare tight communities. Nor do they spare places of worship.

On Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said that the mass shooting stemmed from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated.

Yet for all those whose lives have been destroyed by what has so aptly been described by President Trump as an “act of evil,” the precise motives of the shooter matter little.

What would perhaps be more comforting to them is the notion that something will be done to try to prevent such a dastardly deed from happening again.

It is noteworthy that the shooter used a AR-15-style assault rifle — a weapon that he used to kill the most people in the shortest possible time.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, President Trump declared that this “isn’t a guns situation,” and noted that “fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been … as bad it was, it would have been much worse.”

Yet this argument is a highly debatable one.

As it turns out, the Air Force failed to report the accused Texas shooter’s previous domestic violence conviction to the FBI as required by Pentagon rules.

Information about convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault are supposed to be submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division for inclusion in the National Criminal Information Center database.

In a written statement, the Air Force said that the top two Air Force officials have ordered a review of the case by the Air Force Office of the Inspector General.

Among the questions that need to be asked is how many other violent offenders have managed to purchase guns because of such bureaucratic errors.

Would serious new gun control legislation, specifically banning the use of assault rifles and similar weapons, help prevent another massacre of this sort?

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment does not give the individual an unfettered right to possess firearms. The court has upheld laws in Maryland and New Jersey that impose certain restrictions on carrying concealed weapons, even with a permit.

It should not take a Constitutional law expert to understand that people don’t need powerful assault weapons to defend themselves or for hunting. The all-too-easy access to such massacre-friendly weapons, making them available to any madman or terrorist, is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue. It is tantamount to inviting more such shootings.

A culture that glorifies violence, that exploits it for entertainment for children as well as adults, cannot be overlooked as a major culprit. The task of expunging violence from American society, if it can ever be done, will be a very long haul. But sensible gun control laws can ameliorate the situation in the short term.

For now, it is time to mourn the dead and pay respects as the president ordered, flying the flag at half-mast.