As Congress talks gun violence, plenty of shootings illustrate the problem.

Share story

On Independence Day, police arrested a man who celebrated his freedom by firing an assault-style rifle into the air outside his West Seattle home. Fortunately, no one was injured. We rely a lot on luck rather than on better firearms laws to keep people safe.

Congress is talking about gun-control measures this week, prompted by the mass shooting in Orlando last month. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll take seriously the need for more protection against the damage guns do. Every week there are reminders of that damage.

The man in West Seattle was jailed on suspicion of unlawful possession of a firearm, which he’s not allowed to have because of a previous felony conviction. He’s been locked up before, including for residential burglary and theft of a firearm.

Criminals will get guns, but the absence of strong laws on firearms sales and gun security makes getting weapons illegally much easier.

Guns in the hands of criminals are an obvious danger, but so are guns in the hands of people who are thinking of suicide, or who are involved in a domestic dispute, or who just have an accident.

Fourteen-year-old Stephen Brumby died Sunday after being shot by his father, William C. Brumby, at a shooting range in Florida. The son was standing behind his father waiting for his turn to practice when a shell casing from the father’s gun hit a wall and bounced into the man’s shirt. He reached back with the gun in his hand, squeezed the trigger and shot his son.

“The gun didn’t kill my boy — I did,” Brumby told CNN. “Every round in the gun is your responsibility. When it fires, you need to stand to account for it,” he said. “That’s what I’ve spent the last two days doing, accounting for my operating error.”

Operating error.

There are hundreds of accidental shootings every year — someone cleaning a gun, or showing it to a friend, or a child finding a parent’s gun and pulling the trigger.

This father said he took his children shooting because he wanted them to be comfortable with guns. The gun he was using belongs to his 12-year-old daughter.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, he said, “My first thought was: ‘That was pretty stupid of me. I should’ve put the gun down.’ ” Yes, he should have, and really, that was his first thought after shooting his son?

Monday night, two women were wounded by gunfire that followed a disagreement among several people in the Highline area of King County. Sheriff’s deputies are still sorting out what happened, but it’s clear that having a gun makes it easy for some people to end an argument.

And because we don’t have effective national laws to manage the availability of guns, even local areas that have laws on the books struggle with the inflow of guns from neighboring jurisdictions.

Chicago, for instance, tries to limit access to guns, but it only takes a short drive for someone to find guns to bring into the city. So far this year, 2,000 people have been victims of gun violence in Chicago, including 319 who were killed.

The country stops to consider gun violence when there is a mass killing. But day to day, people are shot and some are killed across the nation. A number of cities have epidemics of gun violence, including Chicago, which is in the midst of a war among criminals that makes every day bloody.

Most gun deaths don’t happen in mass shootings or even shootouts among criminals, though. Too often people kill themselves — the great majority of gun deaths — or someone close to them. They act in a moment of despair or anger. Any delay in access to a weapon can be effective when a person is acting on an impulse.

The American College of Physicians is pressing Congress to require criminal background checks for all gun purchases and strong penalties for providing a gun to someone who is prohibited from owning one, and to limit so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

And a survey this year found most Americans would favor technology that would allow only one person to operate a gun.

Congress needs to adopt sensible national laws that can reduce gun violence. Let your representative know what you think.