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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

More Gunshots, More Dead Children, And The Story Never Changes

We’re here again, stuck in the infinite loop, forced to confront another episode of deadly American gun violence.

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There’s video. I don’t recommend you watch it. It’s black-and-white footage, taken with one of those front-door security cameras. A quiet street in northwest Mecklenburg County last Tuesday night. Two cars pull up in front of a house across the way. And then, an explosion of gunfire. In just 10 seconds, somewhere around 150 shots.

Eleven people were inside the house. One of them was a sleeping child named Asiah Figueroa. He was shot in the head and he died. He was 3 years old. Two arrests have been announced so far.

Police say Asiah’s death might be connected to another shooting two days before. In that shooting, a 16-year-old named Jaylen Foster was killed, and two others were shot. Police have arrested a suspect for murder. He’s 14.

Shooters fired into at least three other homes in the northern part of the county between those two shooting deaths. All of it, police say, could be part of an ongoing dispute among groups of students at several Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools — Hopewell, North Mecklenburg and Chambers. It’s still not clear what the dispute is about or how it started.

A couple of things are clear, though. One is that people who fire 150 bullets into a house don’t care who they kill. The other is that it’s easy to kill when you have access to a gun.

Not that long ago, maybe a generation, all this might have ended in a brawl. If you had a beef with somebody at school, you might have to take a beating or give one. That sounds harsh. But it is not as harsh as murder, as whole families targeted in their homes. Guns make cowards brave and deadly.

The same terrible story happens somewhere in our country every day, so many times that we can’t keep them straight. Are you talking about the ex-Marine in Florida arrested for killing four members of a family he didn’t know, including a 3-month-old baby? Or did you mean the two men shot to death in Birmingham when they got into an argument with some other men in a clothing store?

The ex-Marine said he got messages from God. The gun turned him into God, with an angel of death he could hold in his hands.

I am normally an optimist but this is a subject where I have given up. I gave up after the Sandy Hook shootings nine years ago. Nine years ago. A single gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults at that school. And even that was not enough to move the needle on gun reform in America. Every so often, when I call up a YouTube video, I see an ad with one of the Sandy Hook parents pleading for something to change. I cannot imagine the fury in their hearts as nothing ever does.

My only hope is in evolution — that the people who have blocked any reasonable gun reform for decades will slowly die off and be replaced by people who are smarter and kinder. That’s not something I would bet the house on. But it’s about all we’ve got.

In the meantime we will keep letting high school drama turn into murder, and we will keep watching videos of gunfire in the streets, and we will keep losing children, and we will say we care, but we will not care enough.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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