Unknowns in Ohio shooting: Did gunman target his sister?

Shoes are piled outside the scene of a mass shooting Sunday in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Thirty seconds

It’s a short time: Post a selfie online. Heat up coffee in a microwave. Watch a TV commercial.

Shoot more than 100 rounds of ammunition to kill nine people and wound 27 others.

That was how long it took the good guys to take out the bad guy last week in Dayton, Ohio. And those were trained police officers.

Too often, the gun debate comes down to sound bites. The good guy argument resonates; the romantic notion of a cowboy riding in to save the day.

Only, it’s not that simple.

Shooting with accuracy is a difficult skill. That’s why shooting is a sport, and law enforcement officers constantly practice at ranges.

In Las Vegas, it took just 10 minutes for a gunman to kill 58 people and injure more than 850. Only 11 minutes to murder 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary. Seven minutes at Marjorie Douglas High School to kill 17 people and wound 17 others.

Mass shootings are the norm and have been for a while. They’ve become blips in the news cycle.

Festivals. Concerts. Schools. Movies. Shopping centers. Churches. Temples.

The same day as the Ohio massacre, a man posted a racist rant aimed at Hispanic people before gunning down dozens of adults and children at a back-to-school sale at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, killing 22. That took about six minutes.

Since 2014, there have been 334 mass shootings — those in which at least four people are shot — per year on average in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive. Now, the U.S. has moved into having two in a single day.

Are we at the tipping point? Will we demand any changes in our culture?

If our goal is for safety, the status quo is not working.

No leaders are emerging to bridge this gun debate divide.

Our nation seems predictably paralyzed in the aftermath.

When it comes to other health and safety measures, our communities and leaders take action.

In 2017, Oklahoma had 10.2 opioid deaths per 100,000 residents; homicide rate was 8.5; auto fatality rate was 16.7. Smoking leads to about 7,550 Oklahoma deaths a year.

Firearms deaths were 17.2 per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oklahoma sued the opioid manufacturers, and lawmakers passed bills limiting pills and creating a prescription registry.

The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust was established from the state’s 1990s settlement against tobacco companies. Its entire mission is to prevent and stop people from smoking.

Specialized law enforcement units and social service agencies work to prevent homicides, and traffic laws make a book.

Universities and hospitals invest significantly for research and treatment around issues of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other health ills.

No such equal measures are being taken around firearms.

Oklahoma lawmakers have relaxed gun laws over time. The first bill passed in the last session by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Stitt allows people to carry guns openly without a license or any training.

Open carry hasn’t led to mass shootings. It obviously could cause confusion at scenes. It brings more guns into the public and makes people uncomfortable.

Starting on Nov. 1, when I see a person with a gun enter a restaurant, park or building, there won’t be a way to know if it’s a good guy until the shooting starts. Just a few seconds may be too late.

This came up in an El Paso press conference when photos were released showing the gunman walking into the Walmart holding the assault-style rifle. Texas is an open-carry state, and the gun was purchased legally.

“Of course normal individuals seeing that weapon might be alarmed, but technically he was in the realm of the law,” said El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen.

There are common-sense steps Congress and our Legislature could take short of banning weapons:

• Fund research into gun violence. The NRA pushed for the 1996 Dickey Amendment that reduced research by 90%, effectively ending all government-based studies. While many groups conduct gun-related research, some come from an advocacy prospective rather than a neutral one, which is what a public agency can provide.

Data can drive a lot of progress, but it starts with scientific information cleansed of politics.

• Release gun data. Since 2003, the Tiahrt Amendment has blocked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing information from its database of guns used in crimes. Supporters say this protects gun store owners, but others say it only protects the bad ones, according to a National Public Radio report.

• Expand background checks. President Trump renewed a call for this provision on Monday.

• Pass red flag laws. These allow for police or family members to ask the court for an order to remove firearms temporarily from a person they believe to be a danger to themselves or others.

• Fund mental health services. Not all gun deaths are caused by people with mental health needs. People with mental health disorders are often victims of suicide and domestic violence deaths.

• Raise age limits on ownership of certain firearms.

Most importantly, it’s up to all of us to lessen the rancor in the world by rejecting hate, racist and demeaning speech.

Everyone has the responsibility to stand up for our fellow Americans who have differences in race, religion, culture and ideologies.

Be kind. Put more good in the world than bad.

We have to do something. Right now, inaction wins out every time.

Americans can co-exist with firearms in a safer way; we can become better.

Thirty seconds is enough time to say the Lord’s Prayer.

That’s another hallmark and sound bite of U.S. mass shootings: thoughts and prayers.

Maybe we just haven’t been praying for the right things.

Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376

ginnie.graham@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @GinnieGraham

Editorial Writer

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Ginnie is an editorial writer for the Tulsa World Opinion section. Phone: 918-581-8376