Last Tuesday, four people in tiny Rancho Tehama, Calif., were shot and killed in another spree, thus plunging another community into unspeakable and unfathomable grief.
Another American flag on another town square flying at half-staff.
It’s become so commonplace, it wasn’t even the top national story of the day. Apparently, it takes a lot more than four folks being killed for that the occur, even though a child was among the victims.
The shooter killed himself, bringing the total number of dead to five.
Authorities said the carnage was triggered by a domestic violence incident, then it spread to the town of about 1,400. Witnesses said they heard at least 100 gunshots.
We literally just saw this movie, yes?
On Nov. 5, 26 innocent people died inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the hands of someone who had no business having access to weapons. Twenty more were injured.
This year, the U.S. has endured an average of one mass shooting every single day, defined as four or more people shot, according to statistics published by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that tracks such incidents.
Speaking of kids, remember when it was fun to have a fire drill in school? These days, elementary school children undergo “mass-shooting” drills. In last week’s case, it saved a lot of lives. But what a tragedy and an indictment on us that it’s even necessary.
Ninety-five percent of Americans support universal gun-background checks, yet lawmakers who are more afraid of their big-dog donors than their constituents have stymied progress for decades. As things stand, it would help if the current laws were enforced consistently, along with eliminating gun-show and internet loopholes for purchases of firearms.
Earlier this year, a 2016 law that made it more difficult for some people who are receiving disability for serious mental illnesses to acquire guns was rescinded by Congress. It was such a good idea that a president who loves photo-op ceremonies signed it without having one.
Though we know that mental illness can’t be dismissed as a factor for why someone would shoot up a school or church, people with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than others. Yet insurance parity for mental health services is being threatened by budget cuts, specifically reductions in Medicaid, the single-largest source of funding.
It’s no coincidence, by the way, that our jails are doubling as mental health facilities, though corrections officers shouldn’t expected to do such double duty. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 55 percent of male inmates and 73 percent of female inmates in state prisons suffer from some form of mental illness.
According to a 2015 Beck Hospital CFO Report, the average cost for inpatient treatment in a psychiatric hospital is between $1,100 to $2,800 a day.
Housing that same person in jail costs about $70 a day.
Camouflage and consequence
Since we’re loathe to undertake meaningful action, let’s not even bother with the charade of thoughts and prayers, or camouflaging our killing fields with flowers and teddy bears.
We know it’s going to happen again, because we don’t have the courage to change. Let’s stop pretending we’re concerned about the consequences.
There has been a lot of conversation of late about the American flag. Some folks take great umbrage any time they think it has being disrespected. Nothing, though, sullies what the flag stands for more than an unwillingness by Americans in power to do more to protect their fellow citizens.
Unless and until we’ve had enough of innocent blood soaking church pews and playgrounds, we ought to place our flag at half-staff — and leave it there.
— Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org