Editorial: Stop blaming, start solving
President Donald Trump has signaled, if lightly, a willingness to consider measures to address mass shootings in America. Democrats should stop playing politics and engage him in a productive policy discussion.
How serious the president is about finally exploring measures to deter the epidemic of mass shootings is unclear; we've been here before after past massacres, with little to show for it.
But the rapidity with which the bloodbaths have come — last weekend in Gilmore, California, this past weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio — and the high death toll should lead to a bipartisan debate on what the federal government should do.
Of course, that conversation is never going to happen in any meaningful way if Democrats, particularly the score of them running for president, continue to blame Trump for the killings.
That's been the knee-jerk response to all of the mass shootings since Trump took office, ignoring the reality that these incidents have been building for decades, without consideration of who's in the White House.
The gunman who killed 22 in El Paso did echo in his writings Trump's positions on illegal border crossings, and targeted Hispanics, leading many to label him a white supremacist. But he also ranted about climate change and the need to kill off human beings to save the planet. Clearly, he was an extremely disturbed young man with a variety of influences preying on his mind.
Likewise for the shooter in Dayton, who killed nine. His politics apparently ran to the left — he voiced opposition to Trump's immigration policies and support on Twitter for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to the Washington Times.
Putting these two in neat boxes and blaming their actions on their twisted political views risks fighting the wrong enemy.
America has a serious problem with mental illness, especially among young men, who too often express themselves in violence.
Meanwhile, nearly every community in the country lacks adequate resources for tracking and treating those individuals. In Dayton, as has been the case with so many mass shooters, school authorities and others had been aware of his violent tendencies for years, with no avenue for preemptive action.
Mental health is just one aspect that must be examined.
Certainly, the easy availability of guns — who should be able to own them and what categories are allowed — must be a large piece of the discussion. Expanded background checks, bans on high-capacity magazines and red flag laws that allow for the temporary confiscation of guns from persons deemed a risk all must be on the table.
As should cultural influences. Today's youth, particularly boys, are exposed to the most wretchedly violent video games from the time they are toddlers. Some spend hours a day practicing make-believe mayhem. It's certainly worth studying the lasting impact of that activity on their mental well-being.
We also know that today's youth are more isolated, more often the targets of bullying and, thanks to social media, more susceptible to extremist viewpoints.
Trump can't be let altogether off the hook. He has been a poor role model with his personal attacks on opponents and inflammatory language in general. He should, and must, do better. As must those on the left who have used the president's behavior as an excuse to justify their own venom.
This is not a simple crisis. It won't be solved with a few more gun control laws that don't erase the fact that there are 300 million firearms in America and too many evil and/or mentally disturbed individuals who have access to them.
Our leaders must stop blame-gaming and take an honest, sustained look at what might help.