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The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America

 What’s all the shootin’ for?

— George Michael Cohan, The Tavern

It was one of nine mass shootings that occurred that week. It might have surprised some people to see how much publicity it got.  None of the others got even a fraction of that. It was, of course, noteworthy, since it involved members of Congress and members of their staff. It took place on June 14, 2017, on a ball field in Alexandria, Virginia, and was prominently featured in news stories around the country.  No one was killed.  Rep. Steve Scalise (R. La.) was seriously wounded.

That same day there was another group shooting in the United States.  (Although shootings with only a few victims are referred to as “mass” shootings, it seems to this writer that that word should be reserved for shootings like those at Newtown or Orlando.) That group shooting took place in San Francisco in a United Parcel Service facility and got almost no media coverage. Three of the workers in that facility were killed.  The shooting was briefly noted in the Wall Street Journal. Names of the victims were not included in the description.  They were not well known, except to their families.

The day preceding the shooting in Alexandria, there were two group shootings in Baltimore.  Two people were killed in one shooting and two others injured, and two people were injured in the second.  There were many more “mass” or “group” shootings in June but none received the coverage given Rep. Scalise’s shooting. It attracted attention because of the prominence of its victims.

The Alexandria shooting was the 153d mass shooting in the first 165 days of 2017. Of all the victims of the shootings who were killed or seriously injured, only one of them was in a position to have done anything about it-Steve Scalise. Here’s what he had done.

In the 112th Congress that ended on January 2, 2013, Rep. Scalise introduced H.R. 58.  It was called the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act and would have updated certain procedures applicable to commerce in firearms and remove certain Federal restriction on interstate firearms transactions. In that same session he cosponsored H.R. 645, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, thus promoting the presence of guns in the District.  On the Congressional website that lists “Legislation Sponsored or Co-sponsored by Steve Scalise,” he is listed as one of the sponsors or cosponsors of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Acts of 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013, none of which became law.  Those bills would have ensured that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon in his home state, could carry that weapon when travelling in other states that permitted concealed carry.

On January 3, 2017, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 was introduced, and although Rep. Scalise is not listed as a sponsor, that may have been an oversight.  (His office did not respond to a request for a reason for the non-sponsorship.) In addition to permitting a “qualified individual” to carry a concealed weapon into another state that permits “concealed carry,” it also specifies that “a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state: (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.” I leave it to others to explain the reasons for (1) and (2) in the preceding sentence.

The man who shot Rep. Scalise and his colleagues came from Illinois.  He was James T. Hodgkinson.  On his trip from Illinois to Virginia he was accompanied by a rifle and a handgun. He had a valid firearms identification card issued by Illinois.  He did not need a permit to bring his weapon from Illinois to Virginia. He had a history of violence and police encounters

Rep Scalise’s support for guns has garnered him an A+ from the National Rifle Association.  He is a member of the Congressional Second Amendment Task Force. Commenting on the shooting his colleague, Rep.  Tom Garrett (R. Va.)  observed that had it not been for the presence of a member of the House leadership at the Alexandria event, there would have been no police present, and the shooting could have been far more disastrous.  He has introduced legislation to eliminate the D.C. prohibition on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to make it easier for residents and visitors to carry concealed firearms.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R. Al.) said of the Alexandria shooting: “As with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people.  And what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly.”

Thus far in 2017, there have been 206 bad side effects, aka mass shootings, resulting in 290 deaths and 713 injuries.  None of those occurred because of the prevalence of guns in our society.  They all happened because a few people did not exercise their Second Amendment rights properly. What we obviously need is more instruction on the proper use of guns.  At least that’s what Rep. Brooks would have us believe.

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