Once again, Americans are grieving and on edge in the wake of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
According to media reports, on the morning of Aug. 3, Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, allegedly drove 650 miles from his home in Allen, Texas, to an El Paso Walmart, where he killed 22 people and injured 24 others.
Less than 24 hours later, Connor Stephen Betts, 24, of Bellbrook, Ohio, allegedly killed nine people, including his 22-year-old sister, Megan, and injured 27 others in a historical district in Dayton, before he was killed by police.
Using his cellphone, Dmitry Andreychenko, 20, recorded himself Aug. 8 as he walked into a Springfield, Mo., Walmart, wearing body armor and carrying a loaded military-style rifle, causing panic in the store.
According to an Aug. 11 Washington Post article, both his wife and sister told Andreychenko his actions were a bad idea and reminded him of the El Paso shooting.
With these recent mass shootings, calls for background check legislation for firearm sales have once again come to the attention of Congress.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announced he and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., are seeking to reintroduce the 2013 background check legislation bill, titled “The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act.”
The bill would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The bill would also extend the existing background check system to include gun shows and online sales.
Congress passing this bill or any other background check legislation on firearm sales is only a part of the solution.
Dallas Fort Worth Channel 21 news anchor Alanna Autler reported El Paso Police Chief Gregory K. Allen said the AK-47-style assault rifle Crusius used was bought legally.
“Investigators said the accused gunman in the deadly Dayton shooting, Connor Betts, also purchased his weapon legally,” Autler further stated. “In fact, police said Betts reportedly bought the firearm online in Texas along with 100-round drum magazines.”
On Aug. 5, President Donald Trump outlined four steps to better identify mentally ill individuals who should not be allowed to purchase a firearm after urging Americans to condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy and stating the Internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts.
“We must shine light on the dark recesses of the Internet and stop mass murders before they start,” Trump said. “We must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs.
“I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop tools that detect mass shooters before they strike.
“Second, we must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes gruesome and grizzly video games that are now commonplace.
“Third, we must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment but, when necessary, involuntary confinement.
“Fourth, we must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.”
The Internet, social media, video games and mental health issues are not the only factors that can play into mass shootings; society as a whole is part of the problem.
When we notice red flags surrounding a potential shooter’s behavior and don’t say something, as in the Feb. 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., shooting, we become part of the problem.
According to NPR.org, despite calls to local police, the FBI and Florida Department of Children and Families regarding Nikolas Cruz — the Parkland, Fla., shooter — no one intervened to stop him from shooting and killing 17 and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Trump said the actions of the shooter at the Parkland, Fla., high school previously raised many red flags, yet nobody took decisive action. Nobody did anything.
An Aug. 8 CNN.com article reports the El Paso shooting suspect’s mother had called the Allen, Texas, police department. It was later discovered she had called noon June 27 because she was concerned about her son owning an AK-type firearm.
The article states, “The mother was transferred to a public safety officer who told her that, based on her description of the situation, her son, 21, was legally allowed to purchase the weapon.
“The mother did not provide her name or her son’s name, and police did not seek any additional information from her before the call concluded.”
If a family member, friend or acquaintance contacts mental health workers or police with concerns about an individual, the mental health worker or the police must take the information — the red flag — seriously.
This is the only way we are going to start making headway with the problem.