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OPED: The appalling normalcy of gun violence in America

Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
People gather for a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the Borderline Bar & Grill, held at the Fred Kavli Theater in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Less than two months ago, Ian Long walked into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks and began firing two semiautomatic handguns, killing 11 people in the bar and wounding an arriving sheriff’s deputy (who tragically was killed when struck by a round fired by another arriving officer) before turning one of his guns on himself.

Raging wildfires that led 75 percent of Thousand Oaks’ residents to evacuate less than two weeks later overwhelmed the tragedy in the public’s mind, which is a tragedy of another sort.

Yes, the fires were awful. Statewide they killed more than 100 people, 86 in the Camp fire alone, while damaging or destroying nearly 20,000 buildings worth at least $9 billion (in the areas hit by the Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires). About 1.8 million acres burned in total, a record.

Wildfires have always been a part of nature in California. One could argue that gun violence is part of California’s nature too, though the latter is something we could do more to control. But first we have to pay closer attention to the problem.

So far this year California has endured 24 incidents in which at least four people were hit by gunfire, one of the definitions of a mass shooting.

The Borderline attack was the deadliest, accounting for a quarter of the 50 deaths statewide in such shootings this year. An additional 136 people were shot in those incidents but survived, according to statistics gathered by the Gun Violence Archive.

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It’s not just us. Nationwide, there have been 337 mass shootings killing 354 people and wounding or injuring 1,341. That’s a lot of carnage arising from anger or mental illness and too-easy access to firearms.

And the scope of our problem is even broader, because most of our killings and shootings occur in ones and twos. As of early Friday morning, the Gun Violence Archive had counted 56,026 incidents of guns fired at humans nationwide this year, or about 155 a day. That’s a pace of 6.4 shootings an hour.

The body count? An astounding 14,392 people killed — and that doesn’t include gun suicides, which amount to almost twice the number of people shot by others. An additional 27,766 people were wounded or injured in those 56,062 gunfire incidents.

So the total tally so far is 42,158 people killed or wounded by others firing guns so far this year, or 166 people per day, a pace of 4.8 victims per hour.

The most appalling part? This is what we accept as normal.

Happy New Year.