This week there have been two more mass shootings. The Washington Navy yard shooting, that occurred on Monday morning in Washington, DC has, once again, captured the attention of the nation. Twelve people randomly gunned down by a man who appears to have had no motive. Flags flew at half mast.
Refrains of ‘it never happens there’ are oft repeated.
Four days later, 13 people were shot at a park on the south side of Chicago, including a 3-year-old boy. Initial reporting of the incident had headlines that highlighted the number of people shot and how a 3-year-old was involved. For a brief moment, the words “mass shooting” occurred in a headline on the Huffington Post – though it wasn’t at the top of the page.
It’s been less than twenty-four hours and the mass shooting headlines have morphed into “Chicago Boy Shot in the Head,” making it look like the word “again” was inadvertently left off. The looming government shut down has taken over the top of the websites.
Chicago had a shooting. It always happens there.
In June of this year, I was walking around the corner with my five-year-old son to try and get a glimpse of President Obama’s motorcade – who was in town for a fundraiser. I was unaware that John Zawahri had just killed his brother and father. I probably would have seen the house he had set on fire if I hadn’t decided to go in a different direction. I wasn’t sure which way the president’s motorcade would be passing by and wanted to maximize our chances.
By the time we had made the seven minute walk to the corner down the block from my apartment, the one that the president was scheduled to drive by in just a few minutes, Zawahri had killed five people.
My sleepy little beach town just had a mass shooting.
I was only a couple of blocks south of where it all started, less than a mile from the carnage at the college. We were never in any immediate danger, but my neighborhood was pretty much locked down with police activity and hovering news copters. We never got to see the president’s motorcade.
What was going on? This doesn’t happen here.
I then began to think about the news stories I had seen over the previous six months of shootings – mass shootings. I would read about these cities and towns and hear that refrain: it doesn’t happen here.
Now I know it does.
We look at the victims in these all too common occurrences and try to imagine the horror of going about your life and then it being interrupted – or ended — by a random act of violence. Reactions are not created equal, however. Where and when a mass shooting happens depends on where and who was killed.
My neighborhood was met with sympathy and an outpouring of support from around the world. Flags flew at half mast for the Navy shipyard victims. Newtown yielded a national discussion on gun control and school safety.
Yet, for the 13 people shot in Chicago on Thursday night, the response is much different. There is no national coverage of the pain the families are feeling or the shock of how going about your lives can be shattered by random violence. There is talk of how Chicago has the highest number of homicides in the nation. No one died, so obviously there is no need for flags at half mast or profiles of the victims. Sure, the idea of an innocent 3-year-old being shot bothers anyone with a heart. But, it’s Chicago – we all know what it’s like there.
Unless you live there – no, you don’t.
I now understand the surreal experience of seeing your hometown talked about and analyzed from all over the world. All the gasps about how the mass shooting “was only four miles away” from where the president’s fundraiser made me laugh. Our city is a little over eight square miles. Everything is close.
These shootings, however, were too close.
In what becomes an all too familiar refrain, we look for reasons why: he was mentally ill, a drug addict, played video games…he was in a gang.
Yet, it’s never the guns.
The one thing that the Navy shipyard, Chicago, and my neighborhood all have in common is that somehow, somewhere, someone was able to access guns that are capable of a great deal of damage in a short period of time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a military base, or a high crime area or a city. My city had more murders in 17 minutes than it had in the entire three years prior combined.
It doesn’t matter if the guns were obtained legally, stolen or bought in an illegal sale. It matters that the guns were there to be used by a mentally ill man who played video games or a gang member settling a debt.
Since the Newtown mass killing, there have been 16 mass shootings, many that never make the splash page of a website. Tulsa, Oklahoma; Fernley, Nevada; Hialeah, Florida; or Clarksburg, West Virginia — what did they all have in common?
It’s the guns, stupid.
After Monday’s Navy shipyard shooting, Dr. Jane Orlowski, the chief medical officer at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center spoke at a news conference.
There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate. There’s something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries. There is something wrong. I would like you to put my trauma center out of business, I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this.
It’s a great city. It’s a great country, and we have to work together to get rid of this. Because we just cannot have, you know, one more shooting with, you know, so many people killed.
Let’s get rid of this. This is not America.
Unfortunately it is. It only happens here.