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If 20 children killed in an elementary school didn’t change things, why would 10 dead adults in a supermarket?

The massacre at the King Soopers in Boulder is just more evidence of a gun culture soaked in blood and immune to change.

A man carried an anti-gun sign at a makeshift memorial near King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., on Tuesday.
A man carried an anti-gun sign at a makeshift memorial near King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., on Tuesday.STEPHEN SPERANZA/NYT

On Tuesday, as they were still scrubbing the bloodstains off the floor of the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, I was on a radio show, ostensibly debating a Massachusetts gun enthusiast named Jim Wallace.

Jim Wallace, a nice enough guy, is the head of a group called the Gun Owners’ Action League, the NRA affiliate in Massachusetts.

Having long been trolled by a bunch of holy rollers who call themselves the Catholic Action League, I find it hard to take anybody who says they are part of an action league seriously. It sounds cartoonish.

Anyway, Wallace was banging on about how futile and un-American it is to even suggest we might want to make it harder for a crazy person to walk into a gun store and buy something that is designed for the express purpose of killing as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.

I was the straight man for Wallace’s guns-are-good posturing, dutifully pointing out that, in Massachusetts, the relatively strict regulation of guns and gun owners have contributed to the state having the lowest level of fatal gun violence per capita in the nation.


But, proving that there is indeed something to the adage that there are lies, damned lies and statistics, Wallace claimed the numbers from the CDC show no such thing.

Wallace then went on to argue, with a straight face, that the only thing awaiting us on the other side of gun control is tyranny.

He — and, sadly, millions more — genuinely believes that preserving the right of people to buy as many guns and as much ammunition as they want, including high-capacity magazines whose sole purpose is to make it easier to kill a lot of people in just seconds, is the only thing that stands between a free people and a tyrannical government.


It is hard to argue with such tripe, so really, why bother?

After a few more pointless minutes, the segment mercifully ended. It left me with an uneasy case of deja vu, so I went back through some old e-mails and, sure enough, Jim Wallace and I had been on the same radio station years ago, debating the same issues. In fact, nine years ago, I had been on the same radio station right after the Sandy Hook massacre of 26 children and their teachers in Connecticut, cynically predicting to an incredulous host that nothing would change.

There must be some kind of radio digital Rolodex: in case of mass shooting, break glass and call these guys.

Every year since we had that last pointless argument about five years ago, nearly 40,000 Americans died annually on the wrong end of a gun, most by suicide, others in the absence of a national policy on guns that is inherently suicidal for this country.

The slaughter in the supermarket in Boulder, a pretty college town framed by pretty mountains, is just the latest in an endless string of mass shootings that occur with a greater frequency than hurricanes.

And, as with hurricanes, we cannot stop them. Instead, we merely take shelter and observe their awesome, destructive power, then emerge, soaked with tears, shrouded in grief, with mops both figurative and literal, to clean up the mess.

It’s swell that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and so many congressional Democrats are mad as hell and aren’t going to take this anymore, but is anything really going to change?


Let’s be honest: If 20 children slaughtered in their Connecticut classrooms didn’t make a difference, why would 10 dead adults at a Colorado supermarket?

Poll after poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want some kind of meaningful gun control, at the very least expanding background checks and banning the kinds of high-powered rifles and magazines that allowed Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21 and angry at the world, to mow down all those poor people in a supermarket.

But Republicans and even a few Democrats from gun-loving states, like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, routinely defy the will of the American people, and they do so knowing there will be no political consequences.

There is a ritualistic, macabre death dance after every slaughter. Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz pocket campaign contributions from the gun lobby, wring their hands, and blissfully hum “Que sera, sera” in their heads while everybody else runs around like chickens without theirs.

It’s all so utterly predictable and so thoroughly depressing.

Why is anyone surprised?

We have a member of Congress who got elected after being filmed accosting and verbally harassing a survivor of the Parkland school shootings.

We have another, from the state where the latest atrocity occurred, who walks around with a gun on her hip, bragging about trying to sneak a weapon into the Capitol.


If we have one overriding culture in this multicultural stew called America, it is gun culture.

We are the only nation in the world where this stuff happens routinely. The only one.

Maya Angelou used to say when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

From the very first, we were a nation built on guns, in love with guns, in thrall to guns.

We used them to push indigenous Americans aside.

We used them to get rid of a king.

We turned them on each other when some wanted to continue slavery.

We used them on indigenous Americans again, so we could stretch out, from sea to shining sea.

We used them to defeat fascism.

We used them in war after war, some of them necessary, many of them not.

Guns helped make us the richest country on the planet, so we might as well put it on our currency. The hell with God. In guns, we trust.

I’m tired of the debate. It’s maddening. It’s exhausting. It’s pointless.

The status quo will not be changed by the latest atrocity or the others that will follow, as sure as rain.

We showed who we are the first time. Why won’t we believe it?

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.