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Fires and shootings

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Recently two awful things happened about ten thousand miles apart. In November in Bangladesh a factory fire killed over 100 workers. The deaths were largely a result of a long-standing policy common to garment factories of locking workers inside and not having fire escapes in the building, due to fear of theft. In December in the US, a troubled young man entered an elementary school with a semi-automatic weapon and slaughtered 26 people. In both cases, a further tragedy is that the public tragedy so quickly metamorphoses into a private one. Media attention, which in any case tends to ignore long-term solutions to focus instead on emotions, wanders elsewhere, and the talked-of policies once again are not implemented, thereby guaranteeing that such tragedies will strike again and again. Terrible things will happen; fires and attacks are not preventable. But the death toll, for a large part, is preventable, and to avoid acting in the emotion of the moment means condemning more people to tragic deaths and the lifelong anguish of loss. Overcoming powerful moneyed interests, be they the garments or the gun lobby, is not easy. But difficulty is no excuse for inaction. We owe it to the victims to strive to prevent such tragedies in future by passing needed policies now.