When the first reports of the latest gun massacre came in this week, the location—a Navy facility in Washington—had people wondering: Was this terrorism? But no—it was just another sick soul with a gun, filling a workplace, a school, or a movie theater with bullet-riddled corpses. If news is defined as that which is unusual, gun massacres barely qualify. In the past five years, there’s been a mass shooting every three months. In 2013 alone, there have been five mass shootings. Since the Newtown, Conn., massacre last December in which 20 first-graders and six adults were slaughtered, Slate.com calculates, at least 24,580 people have died of gunshots in the U.S. Most of these deaths—suicides, domestic homicides, gun accidents—barely registered in public awareness.
The well-rehearsed debate over gun control will now briefly flare and subside. The country is numb. The next massacre, we know, is but a few weeks or months away. Beyond our borders, it looks as if we’ve gone insane. America’s ��gun sickness,’’ Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland said, is eroding the world’s respect for the U.S., making “the country seem less like a model and more like a basket case.’’ When the U.K. and Australia had mass shootings, he notes, gun laws were changed, and the number of shooting deaths plunged. In Moscow, Russian legislator Alexei Pushkov taunted the U.S. over its impotence to stop the carnage. “Nobody’s even surprised anymore,’’ Pushkov tweeted. “A clear confirmation of American exceptionalism.” To be mocked by one of Putin’s stooges is bitter stuff. But as another group of families bury their innocent dead, we have earned the world’s ridicule.
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