When 17-year-old Claire Davis died, after being shot Dec. 13 by a classmate at their Colorado high school, there were expressions of sorrow from local and national politicians. Davis’s murder got a measure of attention because it occurred only 8 miles from the site of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and one day before the anniversary of last year’s Newtown, Conn., slayings. But as her family and classmates confronted their grief, there was no serious outcry for new gun laws. America has been there, tried that, and run up against an impenetrable wall: the National Rifle Association, which controls politicians through lavish campaign contributions, mainly, but also a relative handful of diehard supporters who oppose even the puniest efforts to control guns.
In 2013, the failure to pass gun legislation stood as the strongest example of how money and special interests can influence the country’s political system, and how Congress is incapable of responding pragmatically to matters of urgent national concern. Confronted with Congress’s inexplicable failure to pass a background-check bill that was supported by more than 80 percent of the people, many Americans simply gave up. They risk becoming inured to the fact that another 32,000 to 33,000 people will likely die from a bullet in suicides and homicides in the United States in 2014.
Instead, Americans should be indignant. There were a whopping 24 additional mass killings — defined as the murders of more than four people in one spree — using guns in the year after Newtown. They appear like regular marks on the calendar:
Jan. 7: Tulsa, Okla. Robbery, four victims, all women.
Jan. 19: Albuquerque. Boy, 15, shoots his parents and three siblings to death.
Mar. 13: Herkimer, N.Y. Man kills four people in a barbershop and car-care shop rampage.
Apr. 18: Akron, Ohio. Robbery, four victims.
Apr. 22: Federal Way, Wash. Gunman kills girlfriend, three others.
Apr. 24: Manchester, Ill. Man in custody dispute kills five people, including a pregnant woman, a child, and a great grandmother.
Apr. 28: Ottawa, Kan. Man accused of killing lifelong friend and three others.
May 11: Waynesville, Ind. Man accused of killing four in possible drug-related slaying.
May 13: Fernley, Nev. Man accused of killing couple married for 60 years, stealing their car, and killing three others afterwards.
June 7: Santa Monica, Calif. Man kills his father, brother, and three others at Santa Monica College.
July 26: Clarksburg, W.Va. Ex-Marine kills two people over possible drug debt, then kills 70-year-old newspaper delivery man and son in street.
July 26: Hialeah, Fla. Enraged man kills six throughout an apartment building.
Aug. 7: Dallas. Man accused of killing estranged wife and three others.
Aug. 14: Oklahoma City. Mentally ill man kills mother, sister, niece, and nephew.
Sept. 11: Crab Orchard, Tenn. Man and woman kill four in attempted drug robbery.
Sept. 16: Washington, D.C. Defense contractor kills 12 at Navy Yard.
Sept. 20: Rice, Texas. Woman kills husband and three sons.
Oct. 9: Paris, Texas. Four men shot dead.
Oct. 26: Phoenix. Depressed man kills four neighbors, including 17-year-old autistic boy.
Oct. 28: Terrell, Texas. Man kills mother, aunt, and three others.
Oct. 29: Callison, S.C. Man kills girlfriend, her parents, and two of the parents’ grandchildren.
Nov. 7: Jacksonville, Fla. Four people shot dead in a home.
Nov. 23: Tulsa, Okla. Four shot dead in second quadruple homicide of the year in that city. Three victims were women.
Dec. 1: Topeka, Kan. Woman found shot to death behind restaurant. Bodies of her ex-husband, brother, and another woman found at the first woman’s home.
Meanwhile, even in Massachusetts, new measures to tighten up loopholes in gun-purchase limits and increase mental health reporting are still being slowly studied in the Legislature.
The extra deliberation isn’t out of ordinary caution. Many legislators are simply afraid of the money the gun lobby will spend targeting their seats. They should think of Claire Davis, and the Newtown children, and, most chillingly, the thousands of victims yet to come.