Three years ago, in the wake of yet another mass shooting, a reader submitted an op-ed commentary to The Californian that laid out his thoughts on this national scourge.
The queue of reader submissions was long and our Opinion section didn't get to his essay right away. In the meantime others wrote pieces that expressed similar sentiments. His essay now seemed redundant, I told him. But never fear, I said, another mass shooting will come along soon.
He was taken aback by my cavalier certainty.
"But isn't that the point of your commentary?" I responded. "That these happen with predictable regularity and nothing changes?"
A month later, we updated his essay with the name of the latest shattered city and published it.
I could fish out that reader's essay from our archive and publish it again and, as long as I changed the location to Gilroy, El Paso or Dayton, no one would be the wiser.
I could fish out the same flawed evaluations of the causes, too.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in a Sunday appearance on "Fox and Friends," pinned this kind of gun violence on "video games that dehumanize individuals."
President Trump, in remarks from the White House the next morning, said much the same thing. "We must stop the glorification of violence in our society (that) ... includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace."
Except the data show no such link.
“Scant evidence has emerged that makes any causal or correlational connection between playing violent video games and actually committing violent activities,” the American Psychological Association maintains.
“The data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive” as data on video games leading to real-world violence, Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University who helped develop that policy statement, told the New York Times. "Literally. The numbers work out about the same. "
Even the Supreme Court came to that conclusion. Studies "do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively,” Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2011 majority opinion striking down a California ban.
McCarthy, the Bakersfield Republican who leads the House's minority caucus, dredged up another largely discredited factor in explaining this insane succession of mass shootings.
"What we've found as a common denominator here is it comes to mental health," he told The Californian in an interview days after the Gilroy attack. "... We've found time and again, in some of these shootings, that the information (about mental health concerns) was not provided" to law enforcement beforehand.
(I asked McCarthy's office about his statement regarding mental health issues and screening — is he proposing some specific legislation? — and to clarify his stance on the enhanced regulation of so-called assault weapons proposed by many, but I received no reply.)
McCarthy is right about this: The red-flag reporting chain is flawed.
But mental health experts, Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association among them, say people with mental illness are generally not violent and in fact are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators.
A country's rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of mass shootings than mental illness data, Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist, told CBS News.
We're living a rerun. A horrible, nauseating rerun. Disaffected, angry young white man (in most cases) outfits himself in black (in most cases) and goes on a rampage.
Initial news reports, quoting confused, terrified witnesses, get half the facts wrong. CNN and Fox show us interviews with people who made it out alive. The police chief holds a press conference with the mayor, Republicans ask for thoughts and prayers, and then come the victim profiles and the funerals. In between there is hand-wringing, speculation, vilification and an increase in gun sales.
Always followed by this: Flawed claims that video games and mental illness are primary causative factors.
Here's a possible correlation McCarthy might consider: America has by far the most guns in civilian hands of any nation and by far the most gun deaths. Pretty simple.
Are other factors at work? Of course. But until McCarthy, the man perhaps in the best position to meaningfully broach the subject in Congress, has the courage to set aside those same, tired talking points, readers will be submitting the same anguished commentaries.
And we'll try to publish them. If not this time, then next time.