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Inside Sources: Grappling with U.S. mass shootings

People arrive at MacArthur Elementary looking for family and friends as the school is being used a re-unification center during the aftermath of a shooting at the Walmart on Saturday, Aug. 3, in El Paso, Texas. (Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times via AP)

What’s the best way to act after yet another round of mass shootings in America? Boyd Matheson, the host of Inside Sources on KSL NewsRadio, turned to those who have lived through a similar experience for recommendations.

Weekend shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, left 31 people dead.

Guest Tad Walch of the Deseret News related his experience traveling to New Zealand in May after mass shootings at two mosques there killed 51 people on March 15.

Walch said a feeling of hope was emerging two months after the twin tragedies.

A garden in the Al-Noor Mosque contained rocks with messages from around the country. Some of those inscriptions, said Walch, read, “We want you here,” “We love you” and “This never should have happened to you in your place of worship.”

The imam had written a long sermon after the tragedy posted on the hallway calling for unity and love instead of retaliation and vengeance.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately put on a hijab and stood with the Muslim community and showed that she would grieve with them. She also led the legislation to ban semi-automatic weapons and some pump-action shotguns, which the gunman used. And she also swore never to use his name, and much of the country’s media has followed her example, said Walch.

Violent video games

Matheson asked Caroline Knorr, the Senior Parenting editor for Common Sense Media, what role violent video games play, particularly for young men.

She said research shows that “playing violent games and having exposure to a lot of violent media can be triggering to people who are already vulnerable — someone who may have a mental illness, someone who is living in a home with violence.”

But with the general public, she said, violent video games don’t seem to have causality — though there could be a correlation.

“People should automatically accept there’s a relationship between violent video games and violent crimes,” Knorr said, “and I don’t think people should automatically dismiss it.”

She added that all violent media are designed to be manipulative and hook users in engaging longer than the user knows.

“Kids can’t stop because they don’t have an off switch,” so parents need to know when to step in, she said.

Joe Biden on grief and loss

Matheson referenced an interview in the wake of the shootings in Dayton and El Paso in which former Vice President Joe Biden reflected on his own personal tragedies of losing his wife, daughter and son.

“It really takes a part of your soul. What I tell people is that it’s going to take a long time, but the person you lost is still with you,” said Biden on CNN. He said he remembered being so angry after his loss.

“Angry with God,” he said.

Matheson said when his father passed away a few years ago, he thought he knew grief but learned he really didn’t.

“The one thing that struck me the most in the loss of my dad was the absence of his presence,” Matheson said. “That for me was the gut-punch that was hard early on.”

Robin Biro, Democratic strategist

Democratic strategist Robin Biro said his party has come under criticism for disparaging President Donald Trump after the two shootings. He said Democrats are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on universal background legislation, which has been languishing on his desk after having passed the House.

He said McConnell is feeling the pressure and may buckle and start working with Democrats.  The bill would create new background check requirements for gun transfers between unlicensed individuals. It passed the Democrat-controlled House 240-190 in February.

McConnell issued a statement Monday, expressing support for Trump’s call for bipartisan cooperation to address the mass shootings.

“Today, the president called on Congress to work in a bipartisan, bicameral way to address the recent mass murders which have shaken our nation. Senate Republicans are prepared to do our part,” McConnell said in the statement.

Biro said he can’t understand the holdup on bipartisan legislation.

“Seventy-two percent of Americans support background checks,” Biro said. “None of us can really understand why he’s not getting behind that.”