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Our View: Shooting shows flaws in system

The Union Editorial Board

What do you say in the wake of a mass shooting?

Anything said never seems to be enough. Elected leaders issue words of consolation for the friends and family. They express sorrow and remorse for the lives lost. They rail against the perpetrators, promising justice and change.

The families are left to sift through pieces of truth, hunting for information about the ones they’ve lost. The complete story likely never will be known. Those last moments, the seconds before violence erupted. What’s left but memories, and bills to pay?

This past weekend’s fatal shooting in downtown Sacramento left six people dead and more wounded. No one doubts the tragedy of these events. Most everyone who lives in the capital, or frequents it, is saddened and scared.

But then police make arrests, the cogs of the justice system begin to slowly spin, and regular life again takes shape … until the next shooting.

It’s not that people with power are unwilling to make change. It’s that there are always other forces at play. It’s never as simple as the partisans would have us believe. There’s more to the flippant responses of making guns more difficult to obtain, or putting one in everybody’s hand.

There have been arrests, and we know the names of the victims. The basic details of the shooting itself are known — that police have called it a gang firefight. But that’s still not enough to piece together the intricate puzzle of not only what truly happened that night, but what led to it.

And we’re nowhere near knowing the steps we need to take to reduce the number of shootings in this country.

But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing.

What we can do is demand, and take, action, so that the names of the victims become more than another mural on a downtown building. Those names, and their memory, should spur people to make the change they want.

And while gun laws should play a large part in an ongoing community discussion, it isn’t the only part. The extremes in this argument — guns for everyone or no guns at all — are nothing more than ineffectual talking points. What we need are reasonable gun safety regulations.

Even strong supporters of the Second Amendment should be able to realize that this shooting couldn’t have occurred without the widespread availability of firearms.

While lawmakers need to figure out effective ways of regulating guns, other parts of government and its agents must address other facets of this problem.

One of the men arrested in connection with the Sacramento shooting was released early from prison, due to credit for good behavior. Viewing this specific case, the early release is an obvious failure of our state’s justice system.

Opponents of Proposition 57, which allows the state to award time-served credit, said it could lead to the early release of violent offenders. Sadly, it appears they were correct.

The need for reasonable gun control, and a demand for enforced sentences, aren’t mutually exclusive. This shouldn’t be a “right” or “left” issue. We need prison sentences for people who break the law, and especially for violent criminals. We also need educational and work programs for those incarcerated, and a pipeline to employers who want to hire them once released. We need a smooth transition from prison to the workforce, with housing and transportation in mind.

And we definitely need mental health at the forefront of these efforts, to ensure people don’t disappear down the cracks of society.

It’s a lot, but hard work always is.

So instead of us wondering what to say in the wake of a mass shooting, we should instead state what we’re going to do about it.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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