Tragedy strikes California bar as Colorado lawmakers win mandate on gun control

Another 12 innocent Americans are dead. This time police are reporting a Marine veteran opened fire with a .45 caliber Glock handgun in a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California.

We are still waiting to learn who all of the victims are, but we do know it is likely many were young students from nearby colleges. We also know Ron Helus, a sergeant with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, rushed into the bar to confront the shooter and was killed.

As the details emerge, they will be no less horrifying than the harrowing accounts of senseless death and miraculous survival that came from the Tree of Life synagogue following a shooting in Pittsburgh last month.

If it feels like these deadly rampages are becoming more frequent, that’s because they are.

Philip Bump, a correspondent for The Washington Post, reported Friday that from 1984 to 2004 there were mass shootings (incidents that killed at least 10 people) about once every four years. But there have now been four such incidents in 2018 alone and in the four years before that there were eight.

No one thing could have prevented these tragedies.

But one fact stands out: shooters in the majority of the cases were able to kill scores of people using guns designed for exactly that purpose.

Voters in metro-Denver have signaled they are ready to see lawmakers enact more drastic measures to at least try something.

Republican incumbents, two of whom embraced moderate gun reform known as a red flag law that empowers judges to temporarily seize guns from those deemed a risk, were ousted from office by Democratic candidates pledging to go much further.

U.S. Rep.-elect Jason Crow supports a ban on military-style assault weapons and accessories similar to the 1994 federal ban that was allowed to expire in 2004. He won in Congressional District 6 by 10 points over the once-thought-invincible Rep. Mike Coffman.

Tom Sullivan ousted Republican state Rep. Cole Wist. Sullivan’s son was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting and that prompted him to become an advocate for gun safety. Wist lost by 7 points a seat he had won the previous election by 9 points. Wist was one of the 2018 sponsors of a red flag law that failed at the General Assembly.

And perhaps the biggest repudiation of the National Rifle Association’s stranglehold on Colorado politics is the defeat of state Sen. Tim Neville, a Republican frequently supported by Colorado’s gun lobby Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Neville lost to first-time candidate Tammy Story by an incredible 13 points.

Colorado lawmakers have a mandate to build on gun legislation that passed in 2013: a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 bullets, universal background checks, more requirements for concealed carry permits, and gun confiscation from domestic violence suspects. We supported those measures then and would have supported a straightforward ban of assault weapons if it had been proposed.

Democrats would be wise to note that making their members from some districts vote on these bills will exact a high penalty. Gun control is far more complicated than it at first appears — gun manufacturers skirted around California’s initial assault weapon ban with bullet button devices. The pitfalls of trying to draft legislation that would have a lasting impact are many, and Democrats had best make sure it’s worth the political cost.

But we already know the cost of having easy access to weapons designed for war, designed to kill people quickly and efficiently. That cost was felt by families Thursday who learned they lost their loved ones not at war but at a college-night line dancing event that turned deadly.

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