Do we just want to sensationalize gun tragedies, or do we actually want to do something to prevent them?
This week, nearly every major news outlet covered the tragic shooting of Robert Godwin, which was broadcast on Facebook. The shooter's first person video, released on the social network, struck a nerve, and fast. Reporters were dispatched immediately to Cleveland, Ohio and then to Erie, Penn. Coverage was wall to wall.
America was fascinated that this death was posted on social media. We couldn't get over the fact that the video was left undisturbed for nearly three hours, plenty of time for the internet to grab hold and run with it. Some focused on Facebook as if it were the cause of the problem.
But as usual we were all focused on the wrong things. The fact is 93 people are killed with guns in our country every single day. Instead of fixating on a few sensational tragedies and how they happen, we need to look at the 93 gun deaths in our country every single day – and why they happen.
Every time somebody is shot by a person who never should have had a gun, like somebody with a dangerous mental illness, or a convicted domestic abuser or a violent felon, we should ask ourselves two simple questions:
1) How did that person get ahold of the gun in the first place?
2) What could have been done to prevent that?
What we will find is that the answers to these questions are what is truly shocking about gun violence in America. The fact is that, with astounding frequency, there are simple solutions, supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, that could have kept the gun out of the hands of someone we all agree shouldn't have had one.
Take, for example, Brady background checks. Since the Brady Bill passed into law in 1993 these background checks have blocked more than 3 million gun sales to dangerous and prohibited purchasers. Problem is, today, thousands of gun sales happen every day at gun shows and online, where Brady checks are not required in most states.
Nine-out-of-ten Americans support expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. Yet Congress won’t act. Why? Because of craven politicians who put the interests of the gun industry lobby ahead of the will and the safety of the people that they have been elected to represent. If that isn't truly outrageous, and worthy of the public and media’s obsession, then what is?
Here’s a way to put it into shocking context: As Robert Godwin’s murderer was on the run through Ohio and Pennsylvania, if he had the time and the inclination, in either state he could have purchased more guns on the internet or at a gun show without a background check!
The bottom line is, instead of fixating on the fact that this tragedy was posted on Facebook, we would be far better served focusing on how easy it is for people we all agree should not have guns to get them. We should be obsessed – and disgusted - with how our elected leaders are complicit in maintaining this disgraceful status quo; and we should hold them, the media and ourselves accountable to focus on the solutions that can truly make this the safer country we all want and deserve.