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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


It's happened again. This time, what should have been a joyous celebration of the Lunar New Year, a cultural holiday celebrated by many Asian communities, was shattered in Monterey Park, a predominantly Asian suburb of Los Angeles. Ten people out to enjoy Saturday's festivities were killed that night and 10 were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a dance club catering to older people. One of those injured in the attack died Monday.

Having shot up one dance club, the gunman 20 minutes later traveled to a second in the nearby suburb of Alhambra. Fortunately, a brave, unarmed employee of that club — unaware of the Monterey Park shooting — managed to disarm him, preventing even more bloodshed. The shooter later took his own life.

The gunman was 72, making him one of the oldest mass shooters on record. There no longer seems to be a typical profile of a mass shooter. They can come from any race, ethnicity or age group and can strike anywhere. No place has proved immune, not churches, schools, grocery stores, parades or just seniors out for a night of dancing.

The dead and wounded in the Monterey Park shooting represent a tragic and senseless loss and disruption of life, one in a long, long list of incidents that, just like terroristic attacks, continue to eat away at ordinary civic life, from its most mundane events to its celebrations.

And as horrific as this shooting was, that's not even where this weekend's carnage ended.

A nightclub in the Louisiana city of Baton Rouge was shot up early Sunday and a dozen people were wounded in what police called a "targeted attack." The fact that police believe this was not a random act of violence is cold comfort to the victims and traumatized bystanders.

There are myriad reasons — and sometimes seemingly no reason — for the shootings that erupt regularly in this country. Their only commonality appears to be the massive, overwhelming proliferation of firearms in the U.S. We remain the only nation where such incidents are now — and this is not an overstatement — commonplace.

Do you flinch at that description? You should. And yet, we must face the grim reality that three weeks into 2023, America has recorded three dozen mass shootings — those incidents in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In the last month of 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics listed firearms as the leading cause of death among people younger than 24 in the U.S.

As guns proliferate, so has the fear widened, fostering a Wild West mentality. A good example of where that leads can be found as close as St. Paul's Jimmy Lee Recreation Center, across from Central High School.

According to news reports, a city employee at the center, Exavir Dwayne Binford Jr., last Wednesday apparently got into a fight with a 16-year-old boy whom he had already barred from the premises. Things escalated, and fists were thrown. Later, outside, Binford allegedly fired at the boy from an estimated 10 yards away, shooting him in the head. The boy remains in critical condition at Regions Hospital. Binford's attorney later said Binford feared for his life.

Binford, 26, had a permit for his gun but acknowledged that center staff were unaware he was armed. Investigators later said Binford could not explain why he shot the boy but said he would not have if "they hadn't put hands on him."

Think about this the next time someone suggests that arming even more people is the appropriate response to the prospect of gun violence. Should we arm city employees? Librarians? Teachers? Can these civilians be expected to exercise a restraint that even some law enforcement officials are hard-pressed to demonstrate?

Binford has been charged with assault and attempted murder by Ramsey County prosecutors. His fate is now up to the legal system. His may also wind up being a life ultimately ruined by gun violence.

What unites all three of these examples of bloodshed? A twisted culture that seems to believe guns are the answer to everything, along with an ability to obtain weaponry with an ease that is unknown in most countries.

We don't know what the answers are to this epidemic. We do know that far more is needed than the all-too-frequent vigils, prayers and memorials.