Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The kind of terror to which we've grown comfortably numb

The kind of terror to which we've grown comfortably numb

I'll bet the name Rick Odell Smith means nothing to you. I don't blame you -- his unspeakable deeds literally whizzed past for about 15-20 seconds on MSNBC this morning. But here's the not-funny thing -- Rick Odell Smith  killed more Americans violently within the last 10 days than both Tsarnaev brothers put together. And his list of victims is every bit as gut-wrenching as those who perished in Boston:

After he shot his way into a home in the small town of Manchester, police say Rick Odell Smith gunned down a great-grandmother, a young couple and three young children. Then he did something that puzzled authorities.

He scooped up one of the children, a 6-year-old girl who was still alive, and carried her to a neighbor's home. Then he jumped into his white Chevy Lumina and sped off. Police caught up with him hours later and he died in a gunfight with officers.

The Chicago Tribune reports that one of the five dead, horrifically, is a 1-year-old child, while another is a 5-year-old boy. Look, I know it's easy to be trite in comparing this story -- and the fact that a quintuple gun murder is nothing more than just a local story in 2013 -- to Boston, to say that only in America is four greater than five. But I'm not criticizing the wall-to-wall attention given to last week's act of terrorism -- the Tsarnaev brothers also wounded or mamed more than 170, inflicted fear on thousands attending an iconic American sporting event, and fed into a storyline that, for better or worse, has dominated the news for a dozen years.

Still, how many people know there've been not one but two gun slayings of five people -- the other took place near Seattle -- just since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested in Watertown last Friday? Neither was more than a pebble in the great sea of televised news. Why?

Today and over the weeks ahead, members of Congress are asking a lot of questions -- good questions, legitimate questions -- about how and why the Tsarnaevs were missed by the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security, out of the thousands of leads that they surely get every year. But this same Congress can't be bothered to hold an up-or-down straight vote on even one measure that might reduce the more than 10,000 Americans killed by guns every year.

Yes, it's very disconcerting that a couple of young men can find out how to make a bomb using a kitchen pressure cooker. But why do so many American men in the midst of a jealous rage or a custody battle snap, and then why is it so easy for them to get a gun so they can take down three or four other people as they go? I'm sure if you asked terror-obsessed senators like Lindsey Graham or John McCain, they'd shrug and say. "I dunno." And yes, lethal domestic violance is a very, very hard problem, but it shouldn't be accepted as an immovable part of the American landscape, like the Grand Tetons.

We spend billions of dollars -- often succeeding, sometimes not -- to try to stop what happened in Boston on 4/15.

Maybe it would help our confused policy makers if we call what happened in Manchester, Ill., what happened to that baby and that little boy and that grandmother...terror.

Because that's surely what it was.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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