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End the cycle of thoughts and prayers

A retired Juneau County judge was murdered in his home over the weekend. The suspect was found with a hit list of other public figures including governors and senators.

As shocking as that incident was, it was hardly the most horrific of the past weekend which saw 17 people killed and 62 injured in 11 separate mass shootings.

All this was at a time when family members are still burying the broken bodies of the elementary school children slain in the most recent school shooting.

The roll call of last weekend’s national bloodbath recalls the battlefield casualty lists of past wars.

June 3: Chester, Va. 1 dead, 7 injured. June 4: Macon, Ga. 1 dead, 3 injured; Hempstead, N.Y. 1 dead, 3 injured; Summerton, S.C.1 dead 7 injured; Saginaw, Mich. 3 dead, 2 injured; Grand Rapids, Mich. 1 dead, 3 injured; Socorro, Texas 5 injured; Mesa, Ariz. 2 dead, 2 injured; Phoenix, Ariz. 1 dead, 8 injured.

June 5: Chattanooga, Tenn., 3 dead, 11 injured.

The response to this latest deadly outbreak of mass casualty gun violence is sadly predictable.

There is great wringing of hands and the voicing of platitudes. There are the endless cycles of “thoughts and prayers” being offered. There are politicians calling for change, knowing that they lack any ability to bring that change about while others close ranks and turn a blind eye to the carnage in defense of what they view as attacks on fundamental rights.

It is a cycle that will spin a few times, much like a washing machine spins a load of dirty underwear. Given enough spins and the memory of the blood and tragedy washes away and people’s attention moves on to the next scandal or lurid headline.

Nothing ever changes. In a matter of weeks or months the cycle inevitably starts again.

Obviously the thoughts and prayers aren’t working. Neither are the political posturing and preaching. These only serve to inflame the fringes and funnel campaign dollars into the cesspit of the American political system.

What is the solution? The knee jerk reaction would be to go after the guns.

As gun rights advocates correctly point out, this would be a problematic solution at best and a blatant attack on constitutional rights at worst.

The problem isn’t with the guns. There are many hundreds of thousands of gun owners who use these tools appropriately and who are equally horrified by the evil actions of madmen.

Rather than broad strokes, there needs to be surgical precision. The key is to keep weapons of murder and mayhem out of the hands of those who would use them for evil ends.

We all know people who should never have access to any weapons. We also know those who are careless in keeping their weapons secure.

The first step needs to be identifying those who pose a danger to themselves and others and preventing them from acquiring firearms. Just as elementary teachers know to only give the roundededged safety scissors to certain students, there needs to be common sense red flag laws that provide tools for families to keep guns out of the hands of those most likely to be a danger to themselves and others.

Beyond this there needs to be an increased emphasis on secure gun storage to prevent weapons from being obtained illegally. And finally, there needs to be consensus on common sense regulation of weapons of war that were designed not for sport, but for slaughter.

A relatively straightforward way to do this would be to reclassify semi-automatic rifles as Class 3 firearms which require additional background checks and would raise the age to purchase them to 21. No right is absolute and all must be weighed in balance with the overall public good.

America is awash in the blood of innocents. We can choose to either wring our hands and repeat the litany of thoughts and prayers or we can take action in our homes and our communities to ensure a safer tomorrow for all God’s children.

Members of The Star News editorial board include Publisher Carol O’Leary, General Manager Kris O’Leary and News Editor Brian Wilson.