Will Thousand Oaks be the mass shooting that spurs change? Maybe not

Posted at 12:30 AM, Nov 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-10 02:42:09-05

Pittsburgh. Orlando. Las Vegas. Newtown. Aurora. Columbine.

Add Thousand Oaks, California, an upscale enclave 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, to the litany.

A Marine Corps veteran entered the Borderline Bar & Grill and opened fire, killing 12 people before turning the gun on himself. Authorities believe the shooter — 28-year-old Ian Long — left a chilling Facebook post around the time of the attack, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

“I hope people call me insane… (laughing emojis).. wouldn’t that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah.. I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’.. or ‘keep you in my thoughts’… every time… and wonder why these keep happening…”

The slaughter continues. With each one, more Americans appear anesthetized to the bloodletting. It’s just more bullets, more panic, more fear. Numbness sets in. Massacres seem commonplace.

Will Thousand Oaks be the mass shooting that finally spurs change?

The maybes

Thousand Oaks is considered one of the safest cities in the nation. It’s an affluent town with a median household income of $108,290, well above the national average.

“We are consistently ranked one of the highest with respect to the lowest crime rate per capita; we’re proud of that,” Mayor Andy Fox told CNN.

It’s an oasis in a state with the strictest gun control laws in the nation.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed even more gun control bills, including raising the age for buying a shotgun or rifle from 18 to 21 and banning anyone convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors from owning a firearm for life.

“I feel it is imperative that California leads when Washington refuses to act,” Democratic state Sen. Anthony J. Portantino of California said in a statement.

And California’s governor-elect, Gavin Newsom, wants to strengthen those gun laws.

“This atrocious act and the many mass shootings that came before are beyond heartbreaking — they are societal failures,” he said in a statement after the Thousand Oaks shootings.

“Simply saying ‘enough is enough’ isn’t enough. We must address the root causes of these devastating acts at every level of government.”

The shooter in the bar attack used a .45-caliber Glock handgun, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. The gun was purchased legally, he added, but had an extended magazine — the sale of which is illegal in California.

Katie Marchetti, a political science professor at Dickinson College, said, “It’s possible for new gun control measures to pass in California in the wake of the Thousand Oaks shooting, but they would be following a course the state was already on.”

Others appear to be following the state’s lead.

This week, Georgia Democrat and gun control activist Lucy McBath — whose son was shot and killed in 2012 — defeated Republican Rep. Karen Handel in the race for the state’s 6th US Congressional District.

Her son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot after a dispute over loud music. She has credited the activism of the students who survived the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school earlier this year as one inspiration for her congressional run.

“It is unfortunately not surprising that on the same day I officially became a Congresswoman-Elect, other families in this country are receiving the same exact call that I did six years ago when I learned my son had been murdered,” she tweeted Thursday.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the Thousand Oaks shooting proves that stricter gun control laws are necessary.

“A renewed ban on military style assault weapons — which have no place in civilian society — is ready for a vote,” she said in a statement. “A bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines is ready for a vote. A bill to ban bump stocks, which Republicans agree should be illegal, is ready for a vote. … We could hold these votes next week and have bills on the president’s desk by Thanksgiving.”

Former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 during a public event in Tucson, Arizona, said she will not accept Thousand Oaks as the new normal.

“There are steps we can take to reduce gun violence, but for too long, too many of those with the power to change this have prioritized personal political gain before taking action to protect our children and communities,” she said in a statement.

“Voters made clear Tuesday night that the days of the NRA blocking action to strengthen our gun laws are over.”

California got the only “A” in the 2017 annual gun law scorecard from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which praised the state for “the strongest gun laws in the nation and a correspondingly low gun death rate.”

Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician at California’s UC Davis Medical Center and director of the university’s Violence Prevention Research Program, said Parkland led to important changes.

“Eight states, including Florida, adopted gun violence restraining order legislation as a result,” he said. “Vermont went from becoming one of the states with the weakest firearm regulations to one of those with the strongest. Parkland, and all the events before and after, spurred the change that made firearm policy an important election issue and helped elect candidates like Lucy McBath.”

He added, “We won’t go numb … because we no longer accept the possibility that this is the new normal. We recognize firearm violence as a crisis and are determined to do something about it.”

The maybe nots

After the February shooting at the Parkland high school left 17 dead and sparked a national student-led push for gun law reform, President Donald Trump sought to reassure a group of people affected by school shootings during a White House gathering.

“The world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution,” he said.

How ‘thoughts and prayers’ went from condolence to cynical meme

The President called attention to modest measures he signed into law in the wake of Parkland, but he has not mentioned a series of changes he called for in the immediate wake — which the NRA opposed. They included raising the age of purchase for certain firearms, “comprehensive” gun law revisions and the expansion of background checks.

The National Rifle Association spent more than $30 million to help elect Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Center of Responsive Politics.

“I don’t want to be a pessimist, but do you honestly think our leaders will have the stamina to talk about the Thousand Oaks shooting when the cameras are gone?” journalist and political analyst LZ Granderson wrote in a CNN opinion piece.

“When you are a parent and you see the pain and sense of helplessness of others during these tragedies, it registers. When you see the ineptitude of leaders in the wake such tragedies, that registers as well.”

Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor and author of “Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” doubts the latest massacre will bring significant change in America.

“I think this is a shooting that may inspire an increased gun debate, more dialogue on the gun issue,” he said. “It’s unlikely that Republicans in the Senate or Donald Trump in the White House are going to support the kind of broad, new gun legislation needed to make a difference.”

Marchetti, the professor from Dickinson College, agreed.

“Comprehensive gun control legislation hasn’t passed under conditions of unified government where Democrats controlled all three branches of the federal government, let alone under the divided government of the 116th Congress starting in January,” she said.

Steven Miller, a political science professor at Clemson University, said he fears the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — in which 20 children and six adults were killed — was “the cynical end of the gun control debate for the indefinite future.”

“The moment we — collectively through our lawmakers — decided that massacring 20-plus elementary school children was an acceptable cost of a maximalist interpretation of an anachronistic amendment to an 18th century constitutional charter was the moment this debate ended for the foreseeable future,” he said.

He added, “Gun control may succeed in the long-term. Quite frankly, it must because these events are, pardon my language, f—— preposterous for a country of our development, size, and wealth. … It’s a fight worth having, but it’s not a winnable fight right now, pending wholesale changes to the composition of national government.”

Susan Orfanos’ son, Telemachus, survived the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history at a music festival in Las Vegas last year. But the 27-year-old Navy veteran was among those killed in Thousand Oaks.

“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts,” she told CNN affiliate KABC, her voice shaking with emotion. “I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns.”