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Pen mightier than shotgun in Capital attack aftermath

Saturday, June 30, 2018

In solidarity with our colleagues at The Capital Gazette and in memory of the four journalists and sales staffer killed in cold blood, we pledge that the voice of democracy that is the press will never be silenced. We offer our praise and appreciation to the staff of the Annapolis, Md., newspaper for publishing in the midst of the carnage that unfolded when a gunman shot his way into the newsroom and instantly snuffed out five precious lives.

Playing out as it did at a similar-sized general circulation newspaper as The Vindicator, Thursday afternoon’s 154thmass shooting of 2018 in this country strikes us with a sharper sting. After all, newspaper staffs in general and newsroom staffs in particular develop strong personal and professional bonds, making the victims of the targeted attack members of our extended family.

The shooting also underscores the pain of all teachers, students, concert-goers and others who share similar vocations and passions as the thousands of innocent victims who have found themselves in the bull’s-eye of a deranged trigger-happy assailant.

Thursday’s slayings in Maryland’s capital also pierces at our hearts a bit more poignantly as it represents a direct assault on those who devote their lives to protecting our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press. The resilience of the remaining staff at The Gazette in publishing a full edition Friday complete with a special report on the carnage they personally experienced speaks to their steadfast allegiance to First Amendment responsibilities.

Like the 2015 mass shooting that killed 12 at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris, the pen has proved mightier than the shotgun in Maryland. It is now incumbent upon all Americans to marshal that same fortitude to continue the difficult fight to lessen the scope of such chilling atrocities.

In practical terms, businesses and other public venues must work to ensure maximum protection for workers and visitors. In Annapolis, the domestic terrorist gained entry to a pool of open-air sitting ducks in an unguarded glass-enclosed first-floor newsroom. It took only a matter of seconds to rack up a grisly casualty toll.

VALUE OF ACTIVE-SHOOTER TRAINING

That toll could have been significantly higher were it not for the breakneck speed at which police and first responders arrived on the scene. That success speaks to the value of formal and professional active-shooter drills throughout the nation. Little did those participating in such training one week ago in Anne Arundel County, Md., realize those skills would be so rapidly put to the test.

On a broader plain, the mass shooting adds to the growing body of evidence that responses of silence and inaction invite only more mass carnage.

If the long-standing plot lines play out as expected, in the days and weeks to come, we can count on yet another round of vacuous calls for hope and prayers for the victims and another short-term spotlight on how to prevent a similar mass assault that likely will end with another sobering dose of reality in the form of continued inaction from public policymakers in Washington and Columbus.

In the specific case of the Maryland newspaper attack, improved leadership must clearly begin at the top. It was only earlier this week when President Donald Trump verbally attacked the press as “the enemy of the people” at a raucous rally in South Carolina. And though the Annapolis shooter had a long-standing legal grudge against the Gazette, one cannot help but wonder whether such mean-spirited rhetoric from the highest office in the land might not push some deranged madmen closer – rather than farther away – from acting out maniacal acts of mass butchery. And the suspect in the Capital killings had a history of mental-health issues.

Though the weapon used in Thursday’s attack, like those used in many other mass shootings, was purchased legally, the bloodbath in Annapolis nonetheless reminds us of the need for legislatures on the state and federal levels to address gun violence more aggressively and to consider modest and common-sense firearms restrictions.

The aftermath of virtually every mass shooting in this nation has resulted in the same old set of missed opportunities by cowardly legislators who too often cower to the National Rifle Association.

We therefore renew our call on legislators in Columbus to enact this summer a set of sensible and modest restrictions proposed by Gov. John Kasich. Among them are taking guns away from mentally-ill people at risk of hurting themselves or others, keeping guns away from those convicted of domestic violence and banning bump stocks and armor-piercing bullets.

Such responsible action should be duplicated in statehouses across the nation.

Inaction likely will only invite more scenes of horrific death, more calls for prayers for victims and more First Amendment pleas from The Vindicator and other thoughtful newspapers for moderate but meaningful reforms.