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Santa Barbara Shooting Reflects American Culture

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Isn't it time to come to the realization that shooting sprees like the one recently in Santa Barbara that left six dead is simply part of American culture? Why treat it like an aberration?

From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook into the present, we are temporarily shocked by the sensational aspects of a senseless shooting, we watch several news cycles on different aspects of the shooting, we're provided background on the assailant and victims, and we listen as elected officials offer reactionary legislation that is destined to go nowhere, only to return to business as usual.

Why are we shocked, saddened, or dismayed?

In his ignorance, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, may have best summarized where America stands on gun violence.

In an open letter to the parents of victims of the Santa Barbara shooting, Wurzelbacher wrote:

I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds -- your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights.

Joe the Plumber certainly does not speak for all Americans, but to the extent that our country's action or inaction indicates our collective view on gun violence, he enjoys nearly unanimous consent. It is not about one's myopic understanding of the Second Amendment but the culture that has been created.

The predictable playbook of the aftershock of such shootings is already underway. The traditional airwaves and social media are filled with claims about the alleged psychological makeup of the killer. Many commentators have examined the slaughterer in Santa Barbara from the perspective of his misogynistic impulses and the impact that those sorts of compulsions have on larger society.

I don't question this analysis. But given our recent history, so what? Is anything going to change?

In April 2013, on the heels of the Sandy Hook shooting, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 91 percent of Americans supported expanding background checks on gun purchases. And A separate poll released by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health found that 74 percent of NRA members supported expanded background checks as well.

But in Congress this was a nonstarter. Will any elected official pay a price for failing to pass legislation that was supported by 91 percent of the American people?

In some places in America, the need to carry a gun has extended into the church. This would be laughable if it were a sitcom.

Many of those who claim to be opposed to gun violence are not beyond critique. Why wait for the sensational to occur at a place like a university campus, an elementary school, or a crowded theater?

In 2014, Chicago has a murder rate of slightly over one a day, and many of those occur with unregistered guns. But more seems to be done to legislate away the sensational than what is increasingly normative in urban America.

Some salute the fact that Oakland's murder rate is down from last year at this point without recognizing that many have been infected with a seductive agent that numbs them to senseless violence and leads to glancing attention at best to the news of a murder -- as long as it does not occur in their backyard.

Blame the NRA if one is in search of boogeyman. Blame weak-kneed liberals if that will assuage one's guilt. But let us also come to the collective understanding this is who and what America has become for the foreseeable future, where attending a political town-hall meeting, going Christmas shopping at a mall or serving at a military base can be synonymous with senseless violence.

Let us watch intently the aftermath of this latest shooting, listen to the talking heads debate what should or shouldn't happen going forward, attend the panel discussions about gun violence, listen to elected officials on both sides of the aisle decry pabula of nothingness so that we can get back to whatever it was we were doing until the next carnage occurs.