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They had a right to their young lives

The U.S. Congress periodically establishes solemn observances of dates on which many Americans have died in foreign terrorism attacks, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, weaponizing of airplanes and the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

If Congress were to memorialize the lives lost in the domestic terrorism that routinely occurs in the United States, the nation would have these new memorials for victims of school and college killings since 1999 that each resulted in at least five deaths:

Feb. 14, 2008: Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill.

Feb. 14, 2018: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Fla.

March 21, 2005: Red Lake Senior High School, Red Lake, Minn.

April 2, 2012: Oikos University, Oakland, Calif.

April 16, 2007: Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

April 20, 1999, Columbine High School, Littleton, Colo.

May 18, 2018: Santa Fe High School, Sante Fe, Texas

June 7, 2013: Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, Calif.

Oct. 1, 2015: Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Ore.

Oct. 2, 2006: West Nickel Mines School, Lancaster County, Pa.

Nov. 14, 2017: Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Rancho Tehama Reserve, Calif.

Dec. 14, 2012: Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn.

And now May 24, 2022: Robb Elementary School in the Texas hill town of Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were gunned down and killed.

The calendar is filling up, even without memorials for victims of all ages murdered in other public places — the Tops supermarket in Buffalo where 10 people died May 14; a church in California the same weekend; a Pittsburgh synagogue, an Orlando nightclub, a Las Vegas concert, a Colorado cinema.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress do not take these grim and macabre mass killings seriously enough. If they did, at least some would glean that preventing domestic terrorism is a higher good than their own political benefit.

And yet, their re-election as proponents of the gun lobby might not after all be in the bag. A majority of Americans want these killings of innocents to end.

Americans should be demanding right now that Congress, as well as governors like Greg Abbott of Texas, respond to the violence. It is an election year for the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. Voters should demand that incumbents own their voting records and require new candidates to say what reforms and firearms restrictions they would support. Here in Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Joe Courtney has consistently supported reforms. The Republican challenger, Mike France, had no comment on the topic for a reporter this past week. If he is a serious candidate, he must be prepared to answer. 

The day after the Uvalde attack, Scientific American magazine posted an article by two criminologists from the online publication The Conversation, "What We Know About Mass School Shootings — and Shooters — in the U.S." The authors documented patterns that could guide the crafting of laws that would enable "society to be alert to these warning signs and act on them immediately," they wrote.

The perpetrator is almost always a lone, male shooter, average age 18. More often than not he has a connection to the targeted school. He intends the attack to be a final act, and in more than half the cases dies by suicide. He posts his intent beforehand. His motives may include notoriety but also an angry self-hatred and despair — a final cry for help.

There are the signals. The action plan should be based on federally required background checks, whether the firearms are purchased from a licensed dealer or privately, as the Bipartisan Background Checks bill now before the Senate would require. A check that comes up with red flags would make the sale unlawful and reduce the opportunities of the would-be purchaser to arm himself. The children and teachers of Robb Elementary had the right to live, and it was taken away from them in a state that bestows eligibility to buy firearms to anyone over 18 with a valid state-issued ID. There is no waiting period.

Maybe what Congress needs in order to get momentum on gun reforms is to have before it a resolution that would create a day of observance for each date of a mass killing. Then, as the dates roll by on the Congressional calendar, there would be no forgetting what the failure to act has enabled.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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