Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Now will the NRA talk to gun control advocates?

By Frida Ghitis
updated 9:23 AM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
Jose Cardoso pays his respects Sunday, May 25, at a makeshift memorial at the IV Deli Mart, where part of a mass shooting took place, in Isla Vista, California. Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage Friday night, May 23, near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a nearby neighborhood, sheriff's officials said. Rodger also injured 13 others and died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.<!-- -->
</br> Jose Cardoso pays his respects Sunday, May 25, at a makeshift memorial at the IV Deli Mart, where part of a mass shooting took place, in Isla Vista, California. Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage Friday night, May 23, near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a nearby neighborhood, sheriff's officials said. Rodger also injured 13 others and died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
HIDE CAPTION
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
Deadly rampage in California college town
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Frida Ghitis: Gun rampages, like the one in Isla Vista, have become routine
  • Ghitis: Why can't America come up with an effective response to gun massacres?
  • She says the NRA should hold a high-level summit with gun control advocates
  • Ghitis: Everyone's at risk now, anyone can die from a random shooting in the U.S.

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter @FridaGhitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- How is it possible that America has not managed to come together and build an effective response to gun massacres? How can that be?

If another country had sent a killer who massacred people at random in the streets of an American city, Congress would have rushed to emergency session and the public would have thrown its support behind forceful action. Politicians, news media, community groups, everyone would be working in solidarity to combat the evil facing the nation. Just imagine if it happened again and again.

In Isla Vista, California, a mass killing has shaken the nation. But every time we hear of another gunman's rampage, Americans go straight into their comfort zone. For a few days, advocates of gun rights stiffen their spines and vehemently defend their turf. On the other side, gun control advocates brandish their arguments while relatives of the latest victims cry out in pain and despair.

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis

The discussion combusts and burns itself off with the usual ingredients: Is the problem too many guns? Is it mental health? Is it guns in the hands of the wrong people? Yes, yes, yes to all of the above.

Each killing spree triggers other discussions. Is it hatred for women, a breakdown of societal norms, too many video games, violence in movies?

By all means we should study, debate and analyze the many factors that contribute to violence.

But first, it's time to take the urgent action needed to stanch the bleeding, to at least slow the hemorrhage.

Opinion: I'm a gun owner and I want gun control

Isla Vista victim's dad shares outrage
Killer Raised So Many Red Flags

How can a country become accustomed to the idea that children may go to school one morning and never come home? It happens over and over and over again. How can it become routine that anyone, anywhere, for no reason at all, can get killed by a mentally disturbed person?

At times, the entire country's response to the endless stream of killings resembles the embarrassing stagnation of politicians in Washington. Each side self-righteously preaches, firing up its own supporters, and nothing changes.

Politicians, by the way, have become useless in tackling the crisis. Talking about guns is too risky.

In 1999, when two killers massacred more than a dozen, mostly teenagers, at Columbine High School, the entire world was in shock. Since then, the shootings have kept coming. At Virginia Tech campus, 32 people were killed. In Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were shot dead, 70 were injured. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 children and six staff members were killed. At a parking lot in Tuscon, Arizona, a congresswoman was shot in the head. Luckily, she survived, but others nearby were killed.

There are two common denominators: guns and mental illness.

Can Americans set aside their differences and try to work out an agreement that will address this crisis? Can the two sides recognize the sorrow and pain that are spreading as they shout past one another?

Gun enthusiasts don't support mass murder. Nobody does. That's the fundamental common ground.

Can we have a moment to set aside strategic long-term political objectives -- just a brief interlude -- and work together to try to prevent more people with mental illness from arming themselves and killing the innocent?

Here's what I suggest. Might the NRA, with all its political power, announce it is willing to speak with mental health specialists, law enforcement officials and gun control advocates to focus sharply on just this issue? Hold a summit, form a high-level committee, take the first step on the road to a solution.

Consider a few recent killing sprees. The Sandy Hook killer had serious mental health issues. The man who shot Rep. Gabby Giffords had dropped out of school after his college required a mental health evaluation. The Virginia Tech killer had been investigated by the university for stalking and had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice.

The Isla Vista shooter also had a history of mental illness. Like many others mass shooters, he had given clear signs that he was extremely dangerous, planning to kill. He had had several encounters with police. His family had alerted the police to the danger.

Still, like all the other mass shooters before him, he was able to build an arsenal as he planned his rampage.

Things must change. The threshold for taking someone against their will for psychiatric evaluation needs to be lowered. Police need better mental health training. It must become easier to intervene when there are risks. Importantly, people who have mental illnesses that put them at risk of violence should be blocked from owning weapons.

Does anyone, even the most avid hunter, the most passionate gun enthusiast, think mentally ill people should be allowed to own semi-automatic weapons, or any weapons at all, for that matter?

Opinion: Let teens talk about mental illness

Beyond the area of mental health, there is much to be debated about whether a free society requires that its citizens be allowed to arm themselves so thoroughly, and whether an armed population makes for more or less crime.

The United States can learn from the experience of other countries where people maintain wide-ranging rights to carry weapons, but have taken measures that effectively brought an end to gun massacres.

Everyone is at risk now, people in every ZIP code, in every income level, of every race. A loved one could die in a random shooting out on the street or in a temple or a movie theater; in a country club, or on a college campus.

No one can honestly deny that it is a real crisis.

America can take steps to start fixing this problem. Gun lovers and gun control advocates can come together and craft a solution. Show Washington that it can be done. Show the world that America has the power to solve an urgent problem.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT