Littwin: How many shootings will it take for us to stop gun violence?

There is much to be said in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, of yet another mass school killing, of yet 10 more gun deaths, of yet another emotional Obama speech, of yet more charges of politicizing a tragedy, of yet more unserious hearings on the intersection of mental illness and gun violence, of yet another candle-light vigil, of yet another politician asking us not to use the killer’s name, of yet more magical thinking in that knowing the details, the name, the motive, the costs to the victims and their families and friends will somehow change anything,

There is much to be said, but, of course, it has all been said before. And knowing that it has all been said before — and each time ignored — the hardest part is to not give in to despair.

Politicians aren’t allowed to despair. You could have asked Jimmy Carter after his malaise speech. And so, instead, Barack Obama gave in to anger. It was a good choice.

He said we’ve become “numb” to these shootings – and that numbness is not an option.

He said that the reactions to mass shootings have become “routine,” and no one has a better claim to understanding that. By one count, it was Obama’s ninth speech following a mass shooting. By one measure — if a mass shooting is defined as at least four people injured in the event — there has been at least one such shooting in every week of Obama’s presidency. Yes, every week. You could look it up on

“As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Obama said, his voice rising. “It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. It does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.”

What’s routine, he said, “is that somebody, somewhere, will comment and say, ‘Obama politicized this issue.’ This is something we should politicize. … This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.”

It’s a political choice. It’s our choice. We are the ones who let our elected officials let the NRA get away with saying that what we need are more guns, not gun laws, even if the data shows the lack of logic behind every word.

As Obama put it, “Does anybody really believe that?”

I know people who do. We all know people who do. These are the same people, in general, who can’t answer the question of why we demand that unsafe cars be recalled but insist that there’s no point in even discussing how to reduce gun violence. Instead, they talk of the 2nd Amendment and “freedom,” as if we shouldn’t have “freedom” from seeing our children shot and killed.

Mother Jones just published a letter written after Newtown to Joe Biden from the sheriff now leading the investigation of the Umpqua Community College killings. Sheriff John Hanlin was one of nearly 500 sheriffs who wrote letters protesting any new laws in the wake of the deaths at Sandy Hook. He said he would not enforce any laws “offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens.”

There’s no shortage of statistics on shootings in America. Gun violence is actually down, along with all crime numbers. And, in any case, mass shootings are a very small part of a much larger problem. But The Washington Post quotes Harvard professor David Hemenway, whose research shows, he says, that young people between 15 and 24 are 49 times more likely to be shot and killed in the United States than in so-called peer nations. And what can be routine about that?

Politically, the story is mixed. In a Vox explainer on polls and guns, they show that since Sandy Hook, those supporting gun rights over gun control has actually risen. But if pollsters ask about individual changes in gun laws, as Pew has done, everything changes. We may not want more gun laws in general, but it seems we do want more in particular. Polls show that many proposals have strong support — universal background checks, a federal database to keep track of guns, a ban on semi-automatic guns, a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, a ban on online ammunition sales.

I wrote after Sandy Hook that it was our last, best chance to do something. We weren’t numb then. We were shocked beyond belief. These were first-graders, after all.

But that moment passed, and I might have written something along the same lines after Charleston. And then that moment passed. Or maybe it was Lafayette. Or Chapel Hill. I know at least once I mentioned that the issues wasn’t guns so much as it was gun violence, and how could we not do something about that.

It’s no wonder that the story lines run together, pointless gun deaths followed by periods or grieving and then periods of inaction. And then the cycle starts again. As Obama said in his speech, he wished he could guarantee that there wouldn’t be more moments like this, but that he knew there would be.

“Each time this happens, I’m going to bring this up,” he said. “Each time this happens, I’m going to say that we can actually do something about it.”

It’s a long shot, but it’s the only shot we have. And maybe there will be a time, after who knows how many times, that we’re actually ready to try.


Photo credit: Greta Ceresini, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. The “typical” mass shooter is a young, white, male, so at first I thought this might be a racial issue. But this guy, who is mixed race, doesn’t easily fit into that mold.

    Race might still be a factor, but the real problem seems to be that it is too damned easy for young, mentally unstable, MEN to get access to guns.
    And I did mean to say “MEN.” We have to own this guys. When was the last time you heard about a mass shooting committed by a woman

  2. Around 10, 228 people per year are killed by drunk drivers. That averages out to 28 people per day, or twice the number of the latest mass shooting. We can say that deaths by drunk drivers equate to TWO mass shootings PER DAY.
    So using the logic that some advance, we should BAN cars. That would absolutely solve that problem.
    So if some people really, truly care about how people lose their lives, then you would be on the forefront of the anti drunk driving causes.
    Cancer kills around 700,000 per year or averages 1900 people per day, or the equivalent of many, many, many mass shootings.
    Car accidents kill 35,600 people per year or an average of 97 people per day, equivalent to 7 mass shootings a day.
    The point is while people are laser focused on guns, death by many other causes on a far greater scale have been happening for a long time.
    I really don’t understand why people only focus on guns, while ignoring far greater causes of death.

  3. Q: Do you know the difference between Mr. Littwin and the drunk sitting at the end of the bar screaming at the TV?

    A: The bar stool.

    Amazingly, Mr. Littwin has managed to write a column about the tragic deaths of nine students at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon without once mentioning that the gunman had singled out Christians.

    You can’t make this stuff up!!

    This from the New York Times:
    “Are you a Christian?’ (the gunman) would ask them,” Stacy Boylan, father of Anastasia Boylan, 18, told CNN. “‘And if you’re a Christian, stand up.’ And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them, and then he kept going down the line doing this to people.”

    What, you might ask, is the difference between killing people because of the color of their skin or killing people because of their religious beliefs? Of course there is none which may explain why Mr. Littwin chose to intentionally ignore the reason for the slaughter opting, instead, to devote the majority of the column to President Obama’s angry reaction.

    After the tragedy at the Emanuel AME church, in Charleston, SC Mr. Littwin went to great lengths to make readers aware of not only the racial aspects of the story (white shooter, black victims) but the hate aspect of the crime. For example: “a young white man filled with racist hatred “ and “Police and the FBI are investigating the murders as hate crimes.” and “How does this level of racist hatred still exist?” and “But adding the racist component to the piece makes this one different.” and “You don’t have to agree that crimes should be separated by their level of hate to agree that this is a particularly hateful crime, one more hate-filled mass-murder.”

    In writing about the Oregon shootings Mr. Littwin never mentioned–not even once–the role hate played although it is patently obvious that religious hatred played an immense part in this tragedy.

    How, you might ask, could a serious journalist miss such an important aspect of the story? Well, a serious journalist couldn’t. But one, like Mr. Littwin, who consistently ignores inconvenient facts could!

    A bigger question is why the Colorado Independent chose to publish the column at all when its Mission Statement reads, in part, “The only bias we have is for good journalism. We take the role of good journalism as a public trust seriously.”

    So is Mr. Littwin’s column an example of what the CI considers to be “good journalism”? Really? Because it reads more like junk journalism.

    Mr. Littwin also fails to mention that “A CNN/ORC poll conducted in September showed 59 percent of those surveyed believe current gun laws are “about right” or “too strict,” and 59 percent disapproved of Obama’s push for more gun laws.”

    And here’s another interesting fact Mr. Littwin ignored: This from the Washington Post:
    “ Gun control was not a hot topic in the 2012 presidential campaign. (That’s nothing new; the last time guns were a regular topic of debate in a presidential campaign was in the mid-1990s.) As a result, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney spent much time talking about how they might deal with the spate of violent acts being committed with guns in the U.S. (President Obama’s speech following the Aurora movie theater shootings drew lots of attention but had no specifics as to what — if anything — the government should do to stop future incidents from happening.)”

    Today, with absolutely nothing to lose politically our feckless president has suddenly transformed into an angry paladin of gun control. And what he lacks in courage he also lacks in specifics.

    According to the left-leaning Brookings Institute there are approximately 300 (3-0-0) different state laws involving gun control. Does Mr. Littwin or President Obama believe a 301st would make a difference? If so, what is it?

    New York’s Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, like President Obama, believes gun control should be politicized and has suggested that Congressional Democrats shutdown the government if the gun control issue is not resolved.

    What does the risk-averse Mr. Littwin think about that?

    Finally, what does Mr. Littwin consider more important, electing Democrats or controlling guns since few believe both can be done simultaneously?


    “The new (YouGov/CBS News 2016 Battleground Tracker) poll finds Sen. Sanders with 52% support among Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, while former Secretary of State Clinton, long considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, receives 30%.”

    Courage enlarges, cowardice diminishes resources. In desperate straits the fears of the timid aggravate the dangers that imperil the brave. – Christian Nestell Bovee

    “The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true! Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers. It’s so simplistic!” – Camille Paglia Salon

    “I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: to
    what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?” – Dave Chappelle

    “This new Dream, seeking revolutionary change in how America works, is not only impossible, but based on the faulty assumption that black Americans are the world’s first group who can only excel under ideal conditions. We are perhaps the first people on earth taught to consider it insulting when someone suggests we try to cope with the system as it is—even when that person is black, or even the President.” – John McWhorter, Daily Beast

    “..Bernie(Sanders)is the most benign of summer flings.” Mike Littwin

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Folds of Honor
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2015

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