It doesn't have to be this way

We're the nation that plumbs the universe and thumbs its nose at life-robbing diseases. Americans are discoverers, inventors, action-oriented problem-solvers.

So, why do we remain impotent in the face of a phenomenon that kills more than 10,000 of us a year?

We can discover water on Mars and fight ALS by dumping ice buckets on each other to raise money for research and treatment.

Yet a sizable bloc of the populace is convinced that it would be impossible to devise any controls on gun purchases or manufacture without also violating the rights of law-abiding gun owners. When it comes to gun safety, we're sure we can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

After each episode of unspeakable bloodshed, the paralysis sets in.

We have become numb and accept mass shootings as routine, as a frustrated President Barack Obama said Thursday after yet another disturbed young man opened fire, killing nine people and injuring seven at Umpqua Community College in Oregon before being killed in a gun battle with police. On Friday, police said they had recovered 13 firearms that had been in the shooter's possession.

The community college massacre was this country's 45th school shooting this year.

In the almost three years since 20 children and six adults were killed by a disturbed and well armed young man at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, there have been 986 mass shootings in the United States.

So far in 2015, we're averaging almost a shooting a day in which four or more people are injured or killed.

How does Congress respond? By continuing to ban federally-funded research into gun violence, its causes and possible cures. We refuse to even look for solutions.

The National Rifle Association has killed common sense and taken our elected representatives hostage.

Our Congress — and our legislature in Kentucky — are in thrall to this lobby that, against all reason and precedent, feeds the paranoid fantasy that the slightest move to protect Americans from gun violence will inevitably lead to the confiscation of all privately-owned guns and the enslavement of gun owners.

What's truly disturbing? The United States is the only country where random gun massacres are routine.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Connecticut Sen. Tim Murphy is right when he says, "Congress has become an accomplice in these murders" and "we are quietly endorsing this mass slaughter by refusing to act."

Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, made a valiant effort after Sandy Hook to bring a measure of common sense to gun laws, to no avail. He and his bipartisan allies should keep trying.

But lawmakers will not break out of their NRA-induced stupor until the public rises up and demands it.