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Latham: The continuing, senseless march of gun violence

It was downright scary, all those years ago, cowering under a flimsy school desk and hoping it would somehow protect me from a nuclear blast.

That was one of two ways we were advised to seek safety. A few years later, we were supposed to move calmly into the hallway outside our classroom, put our heads between our knees and hands behind our heads.

It’s probably a good thing that’s no longer the go-to way of protection as I’m pretty sure that posture is not possible for me these days. All things considered, I preferred hallway over desk, given all the unauthorized material stuck to the underside of those desks.

In those days, we were all told it would do some good to duck and cover. Well, no it wouldn’t. But it might have made it easier to remove our bodies.

A few years later we were making fun of the nuclear drill, but we seriously believed it was destined to happen back then. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. I got the same sick feeling when, at noon one Saturday each month, Fort Worth tested its air raid sirens.

My brother didn’t help.

“You know, when the Russians attack it’s gonna happen at noon on Saturday, so we will all just think it is a drill,” he told me.

Fortunately, back then we just had to worry about the Russians and not the Chinese, North Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians and whoever else might have the missiles.

Schoolchildren have a different worry these days. Fire isn’t going to rain from the sky but from down the hallway. Sitting under a desk isn’t going to do much good against an armor-piercing bullet, either.

The real problem is that we don’t have a clue who the enemy might be. Is it a white supremacist who thinks he can “save” the world? Is it a guy who just lost his job, or someone who just got turned down for a date?

At least when I was a kid, it probably would have taken an international incident to prompt death to come knocking. Now, one irritated dude with a gun can kill a dozen people in the space of a few minutes.

And it is about guns.

Yes, I know you can point out the one-in-10,000 instance where one person killed another with a knife, tire iron or such but not one of the recent mass murders we’ve seen would have happened with a person wielding a machete, or any other commonly available weapon.

Not that knowing the means of murder does much good at stopping them.

Those who want action taken now to limit gun violence are the most likely victims and their children. This is most of us, skewed somewhat toward people of color or those who might be perceived by the murderer as having a “questionable” sexual preference.

None of those who want action has the power to bring it about, beyond their vote, which won’t stop a bullet.

Those who do have such power are absorbed with thoughts and prayers: Thoughts of campaign contributions and prayers they get reelected. Those thoughts and prayers don’t have anything to do with the victims.

We should not expect action from that group of losers. Only a sea change in Congress will — maybe — make any difference. That isn’t going to happen in the next two years for sure.

Thus, slaughter and woe will continue to be a part of our lives. Expect it to happen multiple times each month. An ongoing procession of weeping parents, makeshift floral memorials and funerals will march across our television screens.

When will someone act? What is the magic number of innocent corpses we must count?

I only know that we haven’t reached that limit. Ask the governor, ask your congressman, ask the president if you wish, but do not expect an answer that makes any sense.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email platham@news-journal.com

Today's Bible verse

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

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