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Quite the World, Isn't It?

On Aurora, and our history of violence

We tend in this country to live in the moment, looking neither to the future nor to the past with much insight. The killings early Friday in Colorado - where I spent a fair amount of time researching my first book - will prove that to be the case once again. Hands will be wrung, demands will be made, counter-arguments will be lobbed that the Second Amendment guarantees killers the right to their weapons.

And nothing will change. Because we, as a nation, really don't want it to.

If Columbine couldn't spur a move toward sane gun-control laws, the shooting up of a movie theater certainly won't do it. In fact, none of these killings in the list below - all since the year of alleged Aurora gunman James Holmes' birth - managed to do a thing to move the nation to act. Which says more about us than it does about the killers.

This partial list of mass shootings in the U.S. is gleaned from a range of online news sites. I count more than 200 people killed, not including the gunmen. And I repeat, it is a partial list:

May 30, 2012: Ian Stawicki killed five people, including four who were sitting in a Seattle cafe, before killing himself after a police manhunt.

April 1, 2012: One Goh opens fire at a small Christian college in Oakland, California, killing seven.

October 12, 2011: Scott Dekraai, 41, allegedly enters a Seal Beach, California, hair salon where his former wife works and opens fire, killing eight people.

January 8, 2011: Jared Lee Loughner opens fire at a political gathering in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabbie Gifford.

August 3, 2010: Omar S. Thornton, 34, leaves a disciplinary hearing at Hart­ford Dis­trib­ut­ors in Connecticut, where he is a driver, and opens fire, killing eight people.

November 5, 2009: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opens fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 12 people and wounding 31 others before he is shot and wounded.

April 3, 2009: Jiverly Wong opens fire into a Binghamton, N.Y., community center, killing 13 people before turning the gun on himself.

March 29, 2009: Robert Stewart, 45, shoots and kills eight people at Pinelake Health and Rehab in Carthage, N.C. before a police officer shot him.

March 29, 2009: Devan Kalathat, 42, kills his two children and three other relatives, then himself in Santa Clara, Calif.

March 10, 2009: Michael McLendon, 28, kills 10 people in rural Alabama before killing himself.

Feb. 14, 2008: Former student Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opens fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, killing five students and wounding 18 others before killing himself.

Dec. 5, 2007: Robert A. Hawkins, 19, opens fire with a rifle at a Von Maur store in an Omaha, Neb., mall, killing eight people before taking his own life. Five more people were wounded, two critically.

April 16, 2007: Gunman Seung-Hui Cho, 23, kills 32 people in a dorm and a classroom at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, then himself in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Oct. 2, 2006: Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, kills five girls at West Nickel Mines Amish School in Pennsylvania, then shoots himself.

March 21, 2005: Student Jeffrey Weise, 16, kills nine people, including his grandfather and his grandfather's companion at home, and five fellow students, a teacher and a security guard at Red Lake High School in Minnesota. He then kills himself. Seven students were wounded.

March 12, 2005: Terry Ratzmann, 44, guns down members of his congregation as they worship at the Brookfield Sheraton in Brookfield, Wisconsin; he kills seven and wounds four before killing himself.

March 5, 2001: Charles "Andy" Williams, 15, kills two fellow students and wounds 13 others at Santana High School in Santee, Calif.

Nov. 2, 1999: Copier repairman Byran Uyesugi, 40, fatally shoots seven people at Xerox Corp. in Honolulu.

July 29, 1999: Former day trader Mark Barton, 44, kills nine people in shootings at two Atlanta brokerage offices, then kills himself.

April 20, 1999: Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, open fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.

May 21, 1998: Two teenagers are killed and more than 20 people hurt when Kip Kinkel, 17, opens fire at a high school in Springfield, Ore., after killing his parents.

March 24, 1998: Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, kill four girls and a teacher at a Jonesboro, Ark., middle school. Ten others are wounded.

Oct. 16, 1991: In Killeen, Texas, George Hennard opens fire at a Luby's Cafeteria, killing 23 people and wounding 20 others before taking his own life.

June 18, 1990: James Edward Pough shoots people at random in a General Motors Acceptance Corp. office in Jacksonville, Fla., killing 10 and wounding four, before killing himself. Read More 
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Research trip winding down; let the writing recommence!

At the Library of Congress. Photo by Margaret Mercier-Martelle.
I have one more day of research here in Washington, DC., before we pack up and head to New York to visit relatives. It's been a productive trip; as usual, found some unanticipated material and details, but didn't find other bits I had hoped to, or found them to be less useful than anticipated.

But that's the nature of this process. And while it's forcing me to rethink how to approach some parts of the story of the search for John Paul Jones's body, it also is letting me add some historical nuance that in many ways makes the story even more compelling. I've already made good progress in writing the early part of the story. Now it's time to hunker down for the main body of writing. Which means even lighter posting here than you've been seeing, unfortunately.

The trip has had some challenges of its own. This part of the country was battered by intense thunderstorms two days before we arrived, and the power was only restored at the rental we're calling home a few hours before we arrived. Then there was the heat - over 100 degrees for the first few days, continuing the onslaught we first encountered in Austin, Texas, (107 degrees) and that continued through New Orleans.

There have been a lot of long days in archives but we've squeezed in some fun along the way (see above references to Austin and New Orleans), including a stop at the reading room of the Library of Congress, where I hoped to have my picture taken with all three of my books. Turns out the Library filed The Fear Within in the law library, rather than the general collection, classifying it as a law book (???) rather than a history book. And when I arrived at the library to pick up the other two books, which I'd ordered earlier that morning, I found someone else had picked up Detroit: A Biography from the counter, and the librarian working the circulation desk couldn't find it in the stacks of books being used by researchers. It's good to be in demand, I guess.

So above you see me at one of the study desks in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress with Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West, which is fitting since that's the book that first got me added to the collection that began with Thomas Jefferson's personal library. That's about as close to immortality as one can hope for. Read More 
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