Let's at least study gun violence


The mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., on June 28 struck all of us at the Herald Community Newspapers hard. Five Gazette staff members are dead and two are wounded. These were good people, working hard to earn a living. In a flash, lives were snuffed out by a lone gunman seeking to maim and kill. It all happened in a matter of minutes.

The descriptions of the staff were familiar to us. The Gazette is a relatively small daily paper with a small staff whose members treat one another like family. The editors and reporters cover the local government and school board. The mayor and a number of police officials all said they knew the murdered staffers well, that they spoke often. Local leaders clearly respected these community journalists and the work they did.

Gazette journalists report on local crimes and misdemeanors, not on war. In a sense, though, they became victims of a conflict that has raged since 1993, when Colin Ferguson stepped onto a Long Island Rail Road train and began firing indiscriminately with a 9mm pistol. Since then, mass shootings have become the norm in this nation.

Moviegoers were gunned down in an Aurora, Colo., theater in 2012. Only months later, children as young as 5 were shot and killed in their classrooms in Newtown, Conn. In 2016, LGBT revelers, seeking refuge in the anonymity of a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., were murdered en masse. Last year, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history happened at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Then, this year, there was the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

And now this — journalists killed in what should be the safe cocoon of their office.

This madness has to stop! For God’s sake, it has to stop!

We live in the United States of America. We are a developed nation. We should not have to wonder when and where the next mass shooting might occur. Children should not have to practice mass-shooter drills.

Republican congressional leaders were fired on at a baseball practice right around this time last year — and they continue to do nothing. They pass no legislation to limit firearms — or even to study gun violence.

Yes, that’s right. Congress will not even agree to study the matter. In 1993, the federal Centers for Disease Control began researching the potential harm that guns can do. In its preliminary findings, the CDC found that a gun in the home was more likely to cause harm than not; that a homeowner was more likely to accidentally shoot someone — often a family member — than to ward off an intruder.

The National Rifle Association didn’t like that study. The notion that a gun could put an average homeowner at risk was potentially bad for firearms sales. So the NRA, the main proponent of the firearms industry, started lobbying hard against the CDC. Three years later, Congress passed legislation to prohibit the CDC from continuing its studies on gun violence. The agency has been powerless to do so ever since.

Twenty-two years later, more than 600,000 people have become gunshot victims, according to The New York Times. By comparison, 58,000 Americans were killed and 304,000 were wounded in the Vietnam War.

In recent months, the Herald has published a series of stories — Safety and the 2nd — examining guns in Nassau County. We will continue this work. We are seeking answers to the question that has plagued us for decades: Why is America so prone to gun violence, and what can we do about it?

Yes, we must look at all sides of the story in our reporting, and we are doing just that — without favor to any one viewpoint. We would be lying, however, if we said it were easy to remain objective when fellow journalists are senselessly murdered in a hail of bullets. It isn’t.

We cannot imagine the horror and anguish that the Gazette editors and reporters must have felt when they had to report on this nightmare — to write long, descriptive stories about their colleagues and friends, dead and injured.

They did their jobs, however. Overnight, they produced a newspaper. They carried on.

As a nation, it’s about time we ensure that good people can live their lives without fear. That should start with research-based information from an agency as respected as the CDC.