• 66°

Editorial: #NeverAgain and the tipping point

Do Russian trolls feed the divisive notion that “they’re coming for our guns” every time a mass shooting reopens the U.S. gun debate? Maybe the single-minded focus of the National Rifle Association is sufficient to drive this fear.

Either way, it’s time for Congress to listen to a new generation and take action toward keeping powerful, semiautomatic weapons out of the hands of deranged individuals. Somehow, while ensuring that law-abiding citizens can keep their guns and continue to buy more, the United States must tighten its laws to protect the public from mass shootings. There are many possibilities: Improve and expand the background-check system. Step up punishment for possessing and dealing in stolen guns. Crack down on straw sales. Pass an outright ban on bump stocks. Impose a ban or age limit on the sale of assault-style semiautomatic weapons. And improve access to diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

Gun enthusiasts will argue about the term, “assault.” But surely everyone can agree that allowing an troubled teen like Nikolaz Cruz to legally purchase an AR-15-style rifle reveals dangerous faults in our system. He killed 17 students at a Florida high school and spurred survivors to launch the #NeverAgain movement demanding change in gun laws. Earlier mass shootings at schools, churches and night clubs led to similar calls for action that ultimately were ignored. This incident feels different, though. The NRA line about  only “elites” wanting change is a misfire. A new generation weary of mass killings and school lockdowns is pushing the gun debate toward the tipping point.

Nothing lasts forever, not even the powerful grip of the NRA and the gun industry. Once upon a time, for example, the idea that North Carolina might increase its tobacco tax was anathema — declared an impossibility because of the tobacco industry’s wealth and might. But mounting deaths change things. Who would have imagined years ago that we’d now see messages about the addictive nature and danger of cigarettes — paid for by the very industry that produces them?

Gun regulations and mental-illness treatment are more nuanced issues than people positioned at the extremes are willing to admit. There is legitimate doubt that this Congress has the time or ability to take action before the November elections. Guns, therefore, will be a critical campaign issue. Facing a hostile audience last week, NRA-backed Sen. Marco Rubio was willing to say legislators should be allowed to change their minds. But Rubio is not running this year. Voters need to hear 2018 candidates stake out their positions. Will they allow the carnage to go on? Or will candidates pledge action and agree, #NeverAgain?

Comments

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

BREAKING NEWS

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday

News

Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases

Local

‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack

Business

Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store

Local

Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem

Education

West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant