CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A couple of months ago, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told America's police chiefs that U.S. mass shootings have tripled lately. Between 2000 and 2008, they averaged five per year -- but now they average 15.
Here's a typical incident: In July, a disturbed Florida man with no criminal or mental record withdrew $10,000 cash from his bank, piled it on his apartment floor and set it afire. act. When husband-and-wife apartment managers came to investigate the smoke, he shot both to death. Then the killer fired from his balcony and killed a man on a parking lot below. Then he kicked his way into an apartment and killed three inside. A 17-year-old girl hid in a bathtub, but he broke through and shot her to death.
Actually, the FBI defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more victims are murdered, not counting the shooter. That would include a recent horror in which a young Clarksburg man killed two people in a drug house, then gunned down father-and-son newspaper deliverers who were passing outside. USA Today calculated that these bloodbaths average twice a month in America. But we assume that Holder meant worse slaughter episodes.
Massacres usually make headlines for a couple of days, then the public forgets. Last month, Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Silberman asked "who cares?" -- saying Americans have become numb to the pistol death toll that far exceeds war casualties.
He indicated that the U.S. government won't do anything to protect the public, because conservative right-to-bear-arms fervor blocks any cleanup in Washington.
"When even the most moderate legislation on guns faces a filibuster in the Senate and won't be brought up for a vote in the House, practical people can justifiable conclude that arguing about the issue further is a futile academic exercise," he wrote. "Even those who don't follow politics know that there's no change forthcoming, so they throw up their hands."
After the Connecticut school massacre of children, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., bravely tried to impose more background checks on gun sales, to keep weapons away from criminals and psychotics. But gun zealots denounced Manchin, and Republicans in the Senate halted his bill -- acting almost as if they want more criminals and psychotics to be armed.
So, the number of mass murders has tripled, and conservative politicians block every safety effort. If the rate quadruples, or quintuples, we wonder if they'll show any concern. Probably not.