Shots ring out again, but when will we act?

Zoo shooting: Deadly attack in D.C. signals another occasion to stand up against violence in society.

April 26, 2000

YOU'VE SEEN it all before.

Somebody with a gun lets loose in a public place and leaves several children wounded.

You've heard it all before.

A mass shooting spurs debate over our love affair with the gun.

But when will we have seen our fill? When will we have heard enough to do something?

In the shootings Monday outside the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., many of the symptoms of our society's sickness reared their heads in a single, vicious outbreak.

You've got the underage victims and the likelihood that they were gunned down by someone close to their own ages.

There's the likelihood that the shooter (or shooters) used an illegally obtained gun and was involved in gang activity. There's the good chance that the perpetrator isn't a first-time troublemaker.

There's also a sense of lost innocence here that isn't always found in other violent incidents. This happened at our National Zoo, a treasure that's freely enjoyed by everyone and is maintained by our federal government. It's a place of the people if there ever was one.

This also happened on a day in which African-American families were celebrating their history and culture -- as they have done on that day at the National Zoo for a century. The day -- always the Monday after Easter -- started as a segregation-era alternative to the Easter egg roll at the White House.

That the violence flared in this place on this day suggests a daunting threat to our way of life. It should say to all of us that something is terribly amiss, and it should inspire us to do anything we can to regain a sense of sanity in our streets.

Do we need better controls on the unbridled flow of firearms through our streets and neighborhoods? Absolutely. But even more important, shouldn't we change the way in which we deal with young people, the way we teach them right from wrong or instill cultural values in them?

Shouldn't we be asking what role we play in contributing to the violence in our society, or what role we refuse to play in bringing an end to it?

We've seen and heard it all before. More of the same is what we'll get until we take personal responsibility for making things better.

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