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McFeely: If only we could return to the old days of mass-shooting deaths

An FBI vehicle outside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman wearing all black and a ballistic vest killed at least 26 people and injured at least 20 more on Sunday, Nov. 5. (Callie Richmond / copyright 2017 / The New York Times)

Maybe those of us who don't believe thoughts and prayers can stop bullets are aiming too high, pardon the pun, in our apparent fantasy that one day US citizens will demand their jellyfish elected officials—right and left, but mostly right—do something about the carnage.

Mass shootings like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, have become so common we barely flinch anymore, and the number of dead and wounded is measured not so much in bodies and destroyed families as it is on a relative scale of horror.

"How many dead? Twenty-six? Not as bad as Las Vegas. Could've been worse."

This is what happens when innocent people are routinely getting gunned down by the dozens at concerts, night clubs, schools and churches. We recoil only when something shocks us, which is getting rare, and then only for a moment because anything less than a double-digit body count barely warrants a headline and anything less than two dozen isn't even a top-five mass killing.

We're outraged and demand action when drugs found in Mom's and Dad's medicine cabinet are killing kids, but when a 5-year-old takes a bullet to the head in church on Sunday, that's sold to us as the price of freedom. Sorry, kid, you should have had better situational awareness.

And so maybe those of us who choose to believe America is better than this, and can do something about preventable deaths if we put our shoulders into it, have to change our approach. Instead of all or nothing, perhaps it's a baby-steps thing. If we can get the average body count into the teens, let's say, that should be seen as a victory.

We won't seek gun control, just dead-body control.

Even that won't be easy. It used to be that a mass shooting that killed more than 20 people was unheard of. Until a shooter killed 32 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007, the deadliest shooting in the U.S. was at a Texas restaurant in 1991 when 23 people died.

That massacre is kid's stuff by today's measure. The top-five deadliest shootings have all occurred in the past decade: Las Vegas this year (58 dead), Orlando in 2016 (49), Virginia Tech in 2007 (32), Sandy Hook in 2012 (27) and Sutherland Springs (26).

There was a time when 13 people being killed at Columbine High School in Colorado was enough to bring the nation to its knees and have us wonder what was becoming of us. That was in 1999. It no longer ranks in the top 10 worst-gun-induced bloodbaths. Now, twice that many people killed by gunfire inside a church is just another Sunday.

The goal shouldn't be to stop mass shootings altogether because we'd surely have to infringe on somebody's Second Amendment rights to do that. Maybe if we could just get the average deaths to a less-cringeworthy number, like 13. Making America great again by getting massacre totals to 1999 levels. At this point, I'd take it.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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