NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Nation needs compromise to stop killings; red flag laws could help

Flags are flying at half-staff throughout Allen County and the rest of the country this week following the mass shootings over the weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.

Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered the flags to be lowered from Sunday through Thursday in Indiana and is asking businesses and residents to do the same in honor of the nine people killed outside a popular nightspot in Dayton early Sunday and the 20 murdered in an El Paso shopping area Saturday.

Demonstrators began protesting outside Allen County Republican Party headquarters at Main and Harrison streets on Monday and plan to continue from 5:30-7 p.m. every day this week through Friday in response to those killed as well as the 27 injured in Dayton and two dozen in Texas.

The shock, grief and outrage of these continuing mass murders has the nation not only stunned but fuming at the continuing insanity of such actions and the inability of our nation to stop the killings. Blame is thrown at those who support gun ownership and the Republican Party, which has strongly supported the Second Amendment.

Some on the left who accuse President Trump of being a racist are claiming the El Paso shooter was a right-wing extremist fueled by Trump’s rhetoric on the basis of a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto that was posted online shortly before the shooting. El Paso is a border city that has figured prominently in the immigration debate and has a heavily Latino population.

But while the argument percolates that such shootings are fueled by right-wing racism, CNN reported that the Dayton shooter, who was killed by police before he had a chance to enter a popular bar to kill even more people, retweeted extreme leftist posts on his Twitter account.

Let’s put aside our prejudices and partisanship in this seething debate over what to do next.

The fact is, as of Monday, the 217th day of the year, there have been 255 mass shootings in the U.S., according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as any time at least four people besides the shooter are shot.

Prior to El Paso and Dayton, there was a shooting at a Brooklyn block party on July 28 (one killed, 11 injured); a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in the San Francisco Bay Area on July 29 (three killed, 15 injured), and a shooting at a Southaven, Miss., Walmart on July 30 (two killed, two injured).

We can’t begin to figure out the motivations behind all these acts of blind hate. Most shooters are killing fast and furious with no way to know the race, creed or politics of their victims. And children are being shot and killed as well.

Prayers and condolences are not enough. Something has to be done. Dayton is a little more than two hours away from Fort Wayne. The school shooting in Noblesville last year was even closer. Our local citizens have a right to be concerned for their safety, whether for their children at school or their families at churches, festivals, concerts, or simply shopping at Jefferson Pointe, Glenbrook Square or Walmart.

We need action now, and it will require compromise — one extreme wants guns banned, the other wants no guns of any kind banned any time. Let’s get together and agree on actions that will work. Stronger background checks on gun buyers and “red flag laws” could help stem the tide of such tragedies.

News-Sentinel.com wrote more than a year ago following the Valentine’s Day massacre that killed 17 in a Parkland, Fla., high school, that people who are deemed possible threats due to mental illness or other legitimate factors must be prevented from possessing firearms.

Indiana at the time was one of just a few states with a red flag law that allows family members, guardians or police to ask judges to temporarily take guns away from those deemed a threat to themselves or others due to such things as mental illness, escalating threats, substance abuse or domestic violence. Now 15 states and Washington, D.C., have red flag laws. Texas and Ohio do not, but their legislators have proposed such a bill.

Opponents of red flag laws argue that such legislation infringes on the constitutional right to bear arms and the right to due process of law. But here is where we believe the nation must seek middle ground. The unending incidence of such tragedies calls for such action now.

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