The first mass shooting of the week left me in despair.
A man with an apparently tenuous grasp on reality brought a legally purchased rifle into the Washington Navy Yard on Monday and killed a dozen people. What are you going to do?
Tighten the security measures that allowed him onto the base carrying a disassembled gun in a bag? Well, OK, but these and similar suggested action plans seemed tailored to the specific, one-off details of this crime. The next deranged spree killer is likely to choose another venue.
Try harder to prevent mentally ill people from buying guns? OK, but new prohibitions could discourage people from seeking treatment and create medical-privacy nightmares.
Limit the kinds of guns and the size of ammunition clips people can buy? OK, but such limits would have had no effect on this particular rampage, and who are we kidding anyway? Congress couldn't find the political will to pass even modest new gun control measures after 20 children were slaughtered just before Christmas last year in Newtown, Conn. Indeed Colorado voters recalled two state legislators this month for the supposed sin of supporting a post-Newtown ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds.
Rampages happen. Copycat sociopaths gotta blaze away. Welcome to the new normal.
The second mass shooting of the week left me hopeful.
One or more assailants whom Chicago police believe were involved in a gang dispute opened fire on a pick-up basketball game at Cornell Square Park on the 1800 block of West 51st Street, wounding 13, including a 3-year-old boy.
Across the city that same night 10 other people were shot, three fatally.
My supposition — and yank me back if you think I'm going too far out on a limb, here — is that not one of the shooters used a weapon purchased from a licensed gun shop after showing a firearm owner's identification card and passing a routine background check.
And so my hope is that this carnage finally galvanizes a strong, inter-jurisdictional crackdown on illegal gun trafficking. Because I continue to believe that the real problem isn't licensed citizens carrying concealed guns into restaurants and coffee shops, but thugs able to exert their will and settle their grudges with firearms that flow freely in the underground market.
It's a hope rooted in the idea that most of these gunmen aren't detached from reality, like the Navy Yard killer, but follow a certain wicked logic that responds to the risks and rewards they encounter.
I admit it's a vague hope — "crackdown" is more a notion than a plan — and rather glib. Gun violence of the sort we saw Thursday night into Friday morning in Chicago is merely the most ghastly manifestation of a large set of interlocked social pathologies that include poverty, joblessness, substandard housing, mediocre schools and broken families.
Those seem insurmountable compared to the task of drying up the supply of illegal guns further destroying our communities. And that task strikes me as one that people on all sides of the gun-rights debate can agree needs to be undertaken.
Until we get that done, we'll continue to have multiple mass shooting weeks and endless opportunities for despair.
Quinn's head start
Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign reports that he spent $5.87 million four years ago in his primary race against fellow Democrat Dan Hynes.
Would Quinn have spent more than that against former Commerce Department Secretary Bill Daley, who dropped out of the 2014 Illinois governor primary race Monday, essentially clearing the field of serious challengers?
Impossible to say. The well-connected Daley might have been a prodigious fundraiser and forced Quinn to fill and then empty a sizable campaign war chest. Or Daley might have sunk in the polls and allowed Quinn to save big bucks for the general election.
But let's say, for the sake of argument, that Daley's withdrawal amounted to a $5 million gift to Quinn, who will now be able to solicit contributions from Daley-leaning Democrats in both the primary and the general election fundraising cycles.