What Do All These Mass Shootings in America Have in Common?

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.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Del Rykert
Del Rykert4 years ago

Hi Bill.. Good point and I wonder if they didn't do all of their history lessons. History has proven time and again how "GOOD" people with guns stopped many "BAD" people repeatedly throughout the globes history.. While I feel some need a serious up grading in their training to properly handle and understand what justifies the use of same the true problem in the majoirity of these mass tragedies is mentally disturbed people. Fisty years ago we didn't have these events and we didn't have the drugs that many depressed people are prescribed. I can't prove their is a corelation but after 40 years in the health field I do have some very strong suspicions.

If all the flight crew was armed of each airline on 9/11 I am willing to bet my life on their would have been no twin towers mass murder. Guns would have leveled the playing field in each case and the deranged Muslims would have been dealt with on the spot. Black Jack Pershing had the right solution when dealing with extremists.. It cured the problem for many MANY years. ? Time for a REPEAT ? Makes intelligent people wonder.. Del R.

William Thomason
William Thomason4 years ago

Some people just have it in the back of their heads that if you get rid of the guns, the world would be a better place. Come on people, look at the rest of the world and let it be a lesson. If there are no guns, people who are sick and intent on killing other people will just resort to other means. Some of these other means are far more detrimental than a gun, like bombs, cars, and other modes of transportation. A prime example is a plane, like the ones flown into the twin towers back in 2001, or did we forget about them?

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Most of them are mentally ill. We need to look at our mental health system.

cristiano torchio

Well....americans like to sell guns and have more than one, but when some one use them they complain.
Stop selling guns to sick people...and normal ones.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

we need to look at mental health in this country

Terry T.
Terry T4 years ago

Jane R. actually yes, Guns ARE the problem, if it has been a knife, a club, or any other form of weapon, even a bow and arrow, far fewer people, if any at all, would have died. The disturbed will always be with us, no matter how far we advance in diagnosing and treating these people. Making sure that they do not have access to firearms would prevent these MURDERS and the fact that the most killings/injuries from guns are in homes that HAVE guns. You want "protection", try a German Shepard.

Terry T.
Terry T4 years ago

Robby K. No, you've posted delusional claims which aren't even remotely true and gone out of your way to claim a comment which references the amount of spin in your propaganda and compares it with a blender as if it is a physical threat to your life, that into and of itself shows the weak grip on reality in your thought processes. Seek therapy.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

Guns aren't the problem behind all these shootings. It's the lunatics behind the guns. All peace abiding individuals should have the right to own guns for self defense. Stripping us of this right will only increase crime and we will all be at the mercy of the monsters who want to rob and kill innocent people. Stand up for your rights now or lose them all.