Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Ohio State. Rep. Candice Keller blamed recent mass shootings on gay marriage and drag queens, among other things. (Photo: Ohio House of Representatives)

Ohio State. Rep. Candice Keller blamed recent mass shootings on gay marriage and drag queens, among other things. (Photo: Ohio House of Representatives)

Republicans, Either Cowed or Clueless, Are Useless After a Mass Shooting

Everything except the gun, everything except the fact that this is a country where the angry and disaffected can buy weapons of mass destruction more easily and with less regulation than you could buy a car.

Leonard Pitts Jr.

 by the Miami Herald

And again.

And still.

Nine people shot dead in Dayton, 13 hours after 22 shot dead in El Paso, six days after three shot dead in Gilroy. And tears and disbelief and funeral preparations, candlelight vigils and a search for meaning, and talking heads on cable news and T-shirts and hashtags touting resilience in the face of pain: “Dayton Strong,” “El Paso Strong,” “Gilroy Strong.”

And still.

And people asking “Why?” and Republican officials trotting out explanations noteworthy mainly for their uselessness. They blame mental illness, Colin Kaepernick, Barack Obama, video games, drag queens, gay marriage, TV zombies, immigrants and recreational marijuana. Everything except the gun, everything except the fact that this is a country where the angry and disaffected can buy weapons of mass destruction more easily and with less regulation than you could buy a car.

If 60 percent of us, as reported by Gallup, want stricter gun laws, there is no reason we cannot have them except our own failure to demand it.

Which suggests a cognitive bankruptcy that defies overstatement. Because while Kaepernick and Obama may be singularly American, this is hardly the only country where people play video games. It is not the only country where they watch zombies on television, suffer mental illness or use pot. It’s not even the only country where citizens keep and bear arms. But it is the only country where mass murder is routine. The only one.

And again.

And still.

And it is not just that public responses to this American carnage feel rote and ritualized. It is also — for many of us, at least — that our inner responses feel much the same. There is, isn’t there, an all-too-familiar numbness, a shopworn feeling of helplessness, of what can I do to stop it, what can I do, what can I do? And of hearing the answer whisper up from the subtext of Republican rationalization.

“Nothing. There is not a damn thing you can do.”

As if we must accept the carnage, learn to live with it as we do earthquakes, storms and other natural disasters. But there is nothing natural about this disaster. And for all the babies and mothers, uncles and best friends, brothers and wives head shot, gut shot and dead in this measureless hailstorm of bullets, the most fateful casualty may well be the sense, birthright of every American, that if you don’t like a thing, you have the power to fix it.

We seem to have misplaced that. In a nation that has changed the course of rivers, we seem to believe we cannot change the course of our own behavior.

But this is a lie.

Notwithstanding all the gerrymandering, voter suppression and other ballot-stealing dirty tricks of our era, this is still a democracy. And if 60 percent of us, as reported by Gallup, want stricter gun laws, there is no reason we cannot have them except our own failure to demand it. That means lobbying neighbors and friends. It means not chasing the bright and shiny distractions politicians dangle. It means holding them accountable, showing up on Election Day with our neighbors and friends and voting out every NRA flunky. It means deciding that enough is enough.

And realizing that if we are helpless, it is because we’ve allowed ourselves to be. In so doing, we fail those we’ve lost. We fail our country. And we fail ourselves.

Six days, 34 people. Our ordinary places, our everyday places, our Walmarts, movie theaters, classrooms and malls become killing fields, washed in blood, then enshrined with flowers, notes and teddy bears. This is the new American norm. Just wait a few days, maybe a few hours, and you’ll see it again.

And again.

And still.


Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. His latest book is The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II. His column runs every Sunday and Wednesday in the Miami Herald. Forward From This Moment, a collection of his columns, was published in 2009.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Democrats Lose Senate Majority as 82-Year-Old Leahy Heads for Hip Surgery

"It could be over for the Senate Dems now," said one policy expert in response. "This could mean they effectively lost their majority."

Jon Queally ·


Beijing Slams NATO for 'Maliciously... Smearing' China as a Security Threat

"Who's challenging global security and undermining world peace?" Chinese officials asked. "Are there any wars or conflicts over the years where NATO is not involved?"

Kenny Stancil ·


US Supreme Court Drops Carbon Bomb on the Planet

One Democratic senator warned the high court's right-wing majority "could unleash a new era of reckless deregulation that will gut protections for all Americans and the environment."

Jake Johnson ·


'Massive Betrayal': Biden Cuts Deal With McConnell to Nominate Anti-Abortion Judge

"At a time when we are fighting to protect human rights, this is a complete slap in the face."

Jake Johnson ·


Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo