It goes on and on. Less than a week after killers in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, murdered 31 innocent people, including a young mother and father protecting their new baby, a 33-year-old man in Santa Ana, California, stabbed six people there, killing four of them.
On and on. Yes, on and on. The urban catastrophes pile up, almost every day, so that more than 250 American cities have suffered the bloodshed of mass murders since January; and that number only counts attacks in which three or more at a time have died.
In Dayton, which is the site of the 1995 Dayton international peace agreement, thousands marching through the streets shouted down the state governor Mike DeWine, chanting “Do Something! Do Something!”
They were voicing frustration, anger, and despair, but their words did something, appearing to affect DeWine, who then drew together a 17-point plan to reduce gun violence.
"I understand that anger,” DeWine said, "Some chanted 'do something' and they were absolutely right."
His plan would enable the courts to take guns away from people who pose a threat to themselves or others. The order also would require background checks for all gun purchases, and transfers with some exemptions, strengthen penalties on crimes involving guns, and increase access to mental health treatment.
Fifteen states, including New York, New Jersey, and Maryland — but not Pennsylvania — have court-confiscation or so-called “Red Flag” gun laws.
Ohio Democrats have spent years introducing bills that reflect what Governor DeWine is calling for now.
His action represents a dramatic shift in the way his state’s leadership has handled gun policies over the past decade. Since 2011, Republicans have shown no interest in passing strong gun regulations, though Governor John Kasich had a change of heart to pass gun regulations during his last year in office. Even now, Ohio Republicans are saying, “Go slow.”
There are 270 million guns today in the United States.
Over the years, going back at least to 1927, there have been dozens of laws, and plans, and programs to control the number of guns in circulation, and their illegal use. More than 40 years ago I wrote an article for Parade Magazine describing an effort in which the city of Baltimore paid residents to turn in their handguns and “Saturday night specials.”
Yet recent crawlbacks have made guns, if anything, more accessible. President Trump had been in office only a month in 2017 when he revoked a regulation that banned people with mental impairments from buying guns. He declared, after the Dayton and El Paso massacres, that one of their causes was “mental illness.” The regulation had grown out of public despair at the massacre of 27 people, including 20 small children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Trump and Senate Republicans are appearing to go along with possible “Red Flag” legislation, even though they have pigeonholed and, so far, won’t vote on two important gun-control bills that the House of Representatives has already passed. Across the nation, 90 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of gun owners favor meaningful background checks on people buying or transferring guns of every kind.
If thousands of people in every state would jam the local offices of their senators, sitting in and calling out the rich foot-draggers as they did, and I did, when Obamacare was in jeopardy, perhaps we could take a baby step forward against the killers of babies.
Pray God that we can do it.
Robert P. Bomboy has written for more than 60 national magazines and is the author of six books, including the novel “Smart Boys Swimming in the River Styx.” He taught for more than 30 years in colleges and universities, and he has been a Ford Foundation Fellow at the University of Chicago and in Washington, D.C.