Opponents of gun safety reform are counting on us to move on – Don’t

It was a long, deadly weekend as gun violence claimed more lives.

At least seven people (eight if you count the gunman) are dead in west Texas at the hands of an angry man with an “AR style” weapon. Three police officers and a 17-month-old were among the 25 people who were wounded.

The victims reflect America: a high school student, a veteran, a truck driver, husband and father. The victims were aged 15 to 57. They were men and women, going about their day when they were shot – seemingly at random – and had their lives taken away.

High School students Celeste Lujan, left, and Yasmin Natera, right, mourn their friend, Leila Hernandez, one of the victims of the Saturday shooting in Odessa, at a memorial service Sunday in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The shooter is described as a violent man. A background check had prevented him from buying a different weapon, but he got hold of a gun suitable for war and used it to great effect. According to the Associated Press, he got his murder weapon through a private sale, avoiding a background check in the process — a loophole that should be closed.

He’d been fired from his job. He called police with a rambling statement about the wrongs he had suffered. Gunfire and death followed after a police officer pulled him over for failing to signal a lane change.

This is where we are. Easy access to the guns of war turn our streets, schools, concerts and movie theaters into killing zones.

And nothing. Our government does nothing. In fact, just a day after the second mass shooting in Texas in a month, new laws went into effect loosening restrictions on guns.

It’s absurdity.

While government at both the state and federal level continues to sit on its hands, the private sector is making changes. An El Paso Walmart was the site of a deadly attack in August and then another store in Missouri was victimized by a man openly carrying a gun just days later.

On Tuesday, Walmart announced new rules that it hopes will better protect its employees and customers. The company will no longer allow customers to openly carry firearms while in its stores and it will stop selling certain types of ammunition, including rounds suitable for AR-style rifles and handguns.

According to The Washington Post, the newest restrictions follow other policies put in place by the retailer over the years: it stopped selling handguns in 1993 and military-style rifles in 2015. The store, the Post reported, also raised the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon also called on the president and members of Congress to advance common sense measures, such as more stringent background checks.

I’d add state lawmakers to the list as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump have shown again and again that they are unwilling to take any action to end the slaughter on our country’s streets.

Let’s start by closing the loopholes in our background check system and passing real “red flag” laws that can help keep guns away from dangerous people. Then we can limit the sale of large-capacity magazines and ban military-style assault weapons. If the feds won’t act, we should do it state by state.

That would be a start.

I write about gun violence a lot. I’ve worked on campaigns, including the background check campaign in Maine, trying to stop the senseless violence.

But we have to break this deadly cycle. Research suggests it takes about three weeks for the public to stop paying attention after a mass shooting. Opponents of gun safety reforms know it, and their strategy is clear. They run out the clock until we all move on.

I’m not moving on, and I hope you won’t either.

For the seven people in Odessa. For those in El Paso and Parkland and Las Vegas and Sandy Hook and Columbine and Virginia Tech and California and Dayton and Virginia Beach and Pittsburgh and on and on and on.

We can’t let the subject change. We can’t stop talking about it. We have to make sure that politicians at every level know that we aren’t going away and that we aren’t going to forget – not those who have been killed and not those who refuse to do anything about it.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at dfarmer14@hotmail.com.