This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
Sunday’s slaughter in Federal Way is not only closer to home than the shooting of Newtown, it’s closer to what gun violence in the United States typically looks like.
Five wound up dead, including the perpetrator of the four other fatal shootings.
He had no grandiose political or religious agenda. There was no blather about avenging drone attacks, federal tyranny or mistreatment of Palestinians. The Federal Way homicides appear to have started with a simple, fatal act of domestic violence: The killer shot his girlfriend. He then may have shot the three others to get rid of witnesses.
To all appearances, it was a squalid little dispute that escalated into a massacre because an enraged man had a handgun and shotgun close at hand.
Handguns – not military-style rifles – are weapons of choice for American criminals. They’re used in the overwhelming majority of fatal shootings.
Even mass-killers prefer them by a wide margin, according to a recently released study commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a firearms-control group.
Adam Lanza, James Holmes and other deranged killers may seek out the kind of weapons fetishized in video games and movies, but a Maurice Clemmons – who used a pistol to gun down four Lakewood officers in 2009 – is the more typical multiple shooter.
Domestic violence is sometimes behind mass killings, as was apparently the case in Federal Way. Girlfriends, wives – estranged or current – are the primary targets. A Kentucky man shot his wife, stepdaughter and three neighbors in 2010. The reported provocation: He didn’t like the way his wife cooked his eggs.
The Newtown massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults was uniquely horrifying because of the students’ ages and the violation of a school.
But it shouldn’t distract anyone from the constant drumbeat of more ordinary homicides, including the killings in Federal Way. Roughly 10,000 people are fatally shot by criminals per year in this country, according to the Justice Department.
That translates into an average of 27 killings daily – roughly a Newtown massacre every day. Shootings are so routine in America that it takes the mass murder of elementary schoolchildren to make the country take notice.
The four victims in Federal Way were not 6- or 7-year-olds. But they were human beings – someone’s daughter or sons – and their deaths were no less tragic, and no less a reflection of America’s penchant for gun violence.
Note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said the shootings occurred on Monday.