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Brown: A vote on guns might be simple, our treatment of violence isn’t

San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies search vehicle Highway 38 leaving Big Bear Lake areas standoff with ex Los Angeles police

San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies search a vehicle on Highway 38, leaving the Big Bear Lake area, as a standoff with the ex Los Angeles police officer believed to now be a quadruple murder suspect Christopher Dorner continues with the cabin he is believed to be in burning, near San Bernardino, California, on February 12, 2013, some 46 miles (75 km) from the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear where Dorner, a former Los Angeles, has barricaded himself in a cabin and exchanged gunfire with police who have the cabin surrounded. AFP PHOTO / David McNewDAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images

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Updated: March 14, 2013 6:53AM

For a while Tuesday evening, it appeared the bizarre saga of former Los Angeles policeman gone rogue Christopher Dorner might actually pre-empt coverage of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but let’s face it: if the cabin in which Dorner was allegedly holed up hadn’t been engulfed in fire, and if Dorner had picked the start of Obama’s speech to make a break for it, the news networks would have stuck with the dramatic scene in Big Bear.

Even more to the point, if viewers at home had their choice, they would have picked the standoff and its potential for live gunfire 10-to-1 over another boring political speech.

Doesn’t that tell you as much about our national epidemic of violence as all those victims and their families invited to listen to Obama’s speech from the spectator galleries in the House of Representatives?

We are a people fascinated by violence. We use it as a form of entertainment. We can’t seem to help ourselves.

Whether that’s part of the human condition or just the American one, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s as much of an obstacle to stopping the violence as the guns themselves.

It makes sense for us to be consumed by shooting tragedies such as Newtown, Conn., even the one in Harsh Park that claimed the life of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton as a symbol of so many others. Better that we look than that we continue to look away.

But somewhere in here, we’ve crossed a line, and we were straying across it again Tuesday.

Hadiya’s parents, Cleopatra and Nathaniel, sat next to first lady Michelle Obama for the president’s address, which eventually worked its away around to his plea for Congress to vote his gun control proposals up or down.

“I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different,” said Obama, who invoked the compelling story of Hadiya, just a week back in Chicago from performing with her high school marching band in Washington on inauguration weekend, killed a mile from his home.

“They deserve a vote,” the president said as the Pendletons stood. The moment was stirring enough that even House Speaker John Boehner stood to join in the applause.

“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” Obama continued. “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence — they deserve a simple vote.”

A vote on gun control, simple or not, will help, but the problem runs deeper.

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