SOUTH BEND  –  Bullets don’t care. Nor do military-style weapons from which they fly.

Assault rifles don’t care whether they are used to kill little kids in a school, teens in their high school, worshipers in synagogues and churches, shoppers at that El Paso Walmart or people enjoying a weekend in Dayton’s entertainment district.

The shooters care. They want to bring death, grief, terror. They plan for this, hope for this, seek recognition for this.

How many elected officials – those who could act to restrict use of uncaring assault weapons spewing uncaring bullets – care enough to act? Care at all? The answer to that is what happened in El Paso and Dayton.
     
We become numb to news of mass shootings. There have been more mass shootings than days of the year so far in 2019. As of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there were 255 mass shootings, incidents with at least four people shot.
     
The Dayton carnage was especially shocking for me. Nine were killed, dozens injured in 32 seconds of rapid fire of uncaring bullets from an uncaring military-style weapon used by a shooter seeking mayhem and martyrdom. This occurred in Dayton’s Oregon District, the city’s entertainment district, with fine restaurants, trendy bars, interesting shops and historic structures.
     
Just the night before in that popular area, my son, Steve, executive producer in TV news there, my daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and my granddaughter, Claire, walked by Ned Peppers, the bar the shooter tried to enter to kill so many more. Police downed him at the door to greater infamy.
     
My family members could have crossed paths with the killer. He reportedly was also in the district that night before the massacre. Was he deciding whether to go back to his car and bring out his short-barreled assault rifle then or wait until the next night?
     
I’ve walked by Ned Peppers, 419 E. 5th St., going to “Roost,” my favorite restaurant there, 524 E. 5th St., across the street and a block away. Uncaring bullets easily fly that far.
     
While the Dayton massacre was shocking, it can’t really be viewed as surprising. Mass shootings like this can happen anywhere in this country, with weapons of war easily obtained by anyone anywhere with hate, desire to inflict widespread death and suffering and willingness to die a martyr to some cause.
     
After each mass shooting, we hear the same words: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” Offering this same refrain afterward does nothing to prevent the next massacre. Think about, pray for and act on banning assault weapons.
     
“We are better than this.” Are we? If so, why does it get worse? Why don’t we do better with background checks, closing the big loopholes, and halting the free flow of assault rifles to terrorists?
     
“Well, shootings happen in Chicago all the time.” Shootings in Chicago and so many other cities – with handguns rather than assault rifles often used and with individual gang members rather than crowds of innocent people targeted – don’t mean mass killings in El Paso and Dayton are less significant, not worthy of such national attention.
     
Sure, more is needed to close loopholes letting Chicago gangs get guns, often from Indiana, and to lessen gun violence throughout the nation. But massacres with assault rifles can be addressed promptly. Ban weapons used in war in Afghanistan from use in El Paso and Dayton.
     
If the Dayton murderer, with body armor and lots of additional ammunition, had made it into the crowded Peppers bar, where so many fled, the death toll could have climbed from nine to 100.
     
Another 200 bullets fired into that crowd? The bullets wouldn’t have cared about all that carnage. Bullets don’t care. Assault rifles don’t care.

Who does?  

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.