In the aftermath of every mass shooting, “we immediately revert to discussions of gun law, and only gun law,” but access to guns is only part of the culture that gives rise to such atrocities, according to Pulitzer Prize cultural commentator Peggy Noonan. 

Writing in the wake of the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Noonan pointed to cultural and technological changes in the last 40 years that have left American society “ill at ease with itself” and “prone to violence.” 

In her column in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 15), she cited the breakdown of the American family through divorce and unwed childbearing; the flourishing of drugs, pornography and domestic violence; the growing international sex trade and “an increasingly violent entertainment culture” — especially the video games we encourage young boys to play.

She also pointed out that “America is experiencing what appears to be a mental-health crisis, especially among the young,” with 20 percent of children 3 to17 years old suffering from mental or emotional illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All of these are factors in creating the “toxic” moral atmosphere — part of the air we all breathe — that produces mass shootings, she wrote.

Noonan supports tighter restrictions on guns. But she noted that two weeks before the Parkland shooting, the U.S. Senate could not even agree to a reasonable ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

“So as far as the Senate is concerned, you can end the life of a 6- to 9-month-old baby that can live outside the womb, that is not only human but recognizably and obviously human,” she wrote. 

“The failure to ban late-term abortion is one of those central things we rarely talk about. And I’ll tell you what I think a teenager absorbs about it, unconsciously, in America. He sees a headline online, he passes a television in an airport, he hears the quick story and he thinks: ‘If the baby we don’t let live is unimportant, then I guess I am unimportant. And you’re unimportant, too.’ They don’t even know they’re breathing that in. But it’s there, in the atmosphere, and they’re breathing it in. And it doesn’t make you healthier.”

Noonan proposed a legislative solution — banning both late-term abortions and assault weapons. 

“Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure,” she wrote. “In both cases the lives of children would be saved. Wouldn’t this clean some of the air? Wouldn’t we all breathe a little easier?”

Related reading: Killing Fields, U.S.A.To the mama who said goodbye far too soon and without fair warningNational born killersParkland area Catholics remember the slain

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