Law enforcement officials work the scene of a fatal shooting at a Waffle House in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, Sunday. (George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP)

Four people are dead and four more are recovering from injuries in the Nashville area because of our lax gun culture.

Not because of guns, per se. Gun advocates are right in noting that guns don't aim and fire and kill by themselves.

Not because one young man was so clearly mentally deranged that he walked around naked with a green jacket carrying extra ammo for his AR-15, less than a year after he was arrested for being in a "restricted area" outside the White House presenting himself as a "sovereign citizen" and "wanting to set up a meeting with President Trump." Clearly people with severe mental issues can rarely help themselves and often are unaware that they are not thinking straight.

No, the finger of cause must be pointed directly at America's gun culture.

Federal and Illinois state law enforcement authorities, after the White House incident, confiscated 28-year-old Travis Reinking's guns, and immediately gave them to Reinking's father.

"'(The father) was advised that he needed to keep the weapons secure and away from Travis. (The father) stated he would comply,' reads a report from the sheriff's office," according to the Tennessean.

That lax gun culture is what apparently led the father to return those guns to his son — who a month before the White House incident threatened someone with an AR-15, then drove to a public pool and exposed himself to others, writes the Tennessean, citing police records. The younger Reinking also had threatened to kill himself and said he thought singer Taylor Swift was stalking him, according to The Associated Press.


In our lax gun culture, it is unclear whether either father or son violated any Illinois or Tennessee state laws — at least before Reinking showed up nearly naked and firing a weapon of war at a Waffle House near the apartment complex where he was living in Nashville.

If there isn't a law saying a father can't give guns back to his son whom he must know is deranged, then there should be.

And frankly, we think the father — if he did return those guns, or even leave them where the son could get to them — should be charged with murder, just as his son should.

But that gets to the heart of our lax gun culture.

It also should be illegal to buy and own that AR-15 unless the buyer/owner is, in fact, a member of the U.S. military.

It also should be illegal to sell a gun to anyone with severe mental illness. And gun sellers should have a safe and sure way of running background checks for past mental illness — like the database of persons receiving Social Security disability payments because they've been deemed mentally incapable of tending to their own affairs. Yet that enhanced mental illness background check database was among the first Obama-era rules that Donald Trump scuttled when he took office.

Americans see a mass shooting, on average, once a day — so many that the Waffle House case probably got national attention only because a hero snatched away Reinking's gun as he paused to reload and because the fleeing Reinking remained at large for about a day and a half before being apprehended.

We're becoming numbed to the violence.

Colleen Daley, director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, told the Chicago Tribune that mass shootings have become all too commonplace.

"I mean, it's a tragedy yet again. ... Congress, all they do is leave thoughts and prayers. But we need to pass legislation that can and will save lives. You can go to breakfast and get shot. You can go to school and get shot. You can go to church, go down the street. Whether you are white or black, rich or poor, bullets don't stop at borders."

No, the gun didn't point itself. The shooter didn't choose to be mentally ill. The father didn't expect the worst from his son.

But 29-year-old restaurant employee Taurean Sanderlin, 21-year-old Belmont University social work senior DeEbony Groves, 23-year-old MTSU musical engineering student Akilah DaSilva and 20-year-old restaurant customer and appliance store worker Joe R. Perez are still dead — victims of our still broken gun laws and our lax gun culture.

They are not the first. They will not be the last. We must fix this.