Responding to the Massacres in El Paso and Dayton

The senseless massacre of 20 people and wounding of 26 others at Walmart in El-Paso, Texas, followed by the murder of nine people and the wounding of dozens of others in Dayton, Ohio, has sent shockwaves throughout the nation. We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and our condolences to the people of Texas and Ohio at this most difficult time.

These heinous acts of evil are only the latest reminder that much work still needs to be done to make the “land of the free and the home of the brave” a safe place to live in.

As of this writing, the motive behind the Ohio tragedy — in which a shooter wearing a bulletproof vest, and carrying at least 100 rounds opened fire on the streets, killing his sister and eight others in less than 30 seconds before police fatally shot him — is still unknown.

But the murderer in the El Paso attack posted a racist, anti-immigrant screed shortly before he began his rampage. In his rambling manifesto he expressed his worry that an influx of Hispanics into the United States will replace aging white voters, which would possibly cause the GOP to lose Texas in upcoming elections and win the White House for the Democrats.

As we continue to wage war against the grave danger of terrorist acts perpetrated by Islamic extremists, it is crucial that the very real threat of attacks committed by xenophobic terrorists not be underestimated. Whether they are members of established white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups, or unaffiliated “loners,” the threat posed by these evildoers is a very real menace to civilized society.

Those who openly declare allegiance to these groups or express a desire to commit violent acts against minorities must be treated no differently than those who announce that they want to join ISIS or some other international terror group.

Furthermore, while lively debate about fundamental topics such as immigration is an essential part of civil discourse, great emphasis must be made to ensure that the conversation doesn’t cross into the sphere of hate-mongering and even the subtle encouragement of violence.

As this act of terror illustrates, the internet — a well-documented breeding ground for a host of spiritual ills — also plays a significant role in spreading hate and aiding and abetting homegrown acts of terror.

Law enforcement agencies must step up efforts to track down and expose those who are fomenting racial hatred and take steps to stop violent attacks before they occur. Significantly more resources must be set aside, and additional personnel hired to deal with this threat.

This terror attack, as well as the shooting in Ohio, are also painful reminders of just how easy it is for a would-be mass murderer to get his hands on a gun in America.

Far too many innocent Americans have died because these weapons of death have fallen into the wrong hands. While gun control will not eliminate acts of violence and certainly won’t reduce the level of hatred, it will save lives. All legal loopholes that allow criminals to access guns must be closed. Exhaustive and all-inclusive background checks for gun purchasers must be put in place to ensure that those who flaunt an ideology of hatred must never be allowed to own a gun.

As part of a comprehensive national response to this tragedy, the accompanying culture of violence must also be addressed. The undeniable role played by the glorification of violent criminal acts in breeding violence — so pervasive in the moral cesspool known as the entertainment world — must be recognized. America must stop burying its head in the sand and realize that as long as violence takes center stage in what the populace reads and watches, those very scenes of violence will inspire real-life acts of violence and terror.

The people of America deserve a better future. While law enforcement on the local, state and federal level must step up efforts to keep citizens safe, it is up to the nation as a whole to make the hard choices to bring down the unacceptable level of violence that plagues this country.

This must include not only concrete steps to keep guns out of the hands of offenders, but also a concerted effort to reduce the desire to own a gun in the first place.