A Hub reporter was shocked on Monday to learn that the violence in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, constituted the 250th and 251st mass shootings of 2019. That’s according to the Gun Violence Archive. The organization keeps a tally of any shooting in which four or more people are injured or killed.
If — like that reporter — you are shocked that we’ve exceeded 251 mass shootings, then hold onto your thought. Perhaps if enough Americans could be shocked and alarmed by the horrific body count, we Americans might get something done. We might compel our elected leaders to advance solutions that actually slow or stop the killing.
Unfortunately, we have a hard time staying shocked and alarmed. A week or two passes, and we forget the outrage we felt when we first heard the news. Our short national memory stands in the way. If only we could sustain the shock and alarm longer, perhaps we could take a step or two toward resolving the problem.
High schoolers who survived the killing of 17 students and staff members at their Florida high school in 2018 have worked hard to keep Americans focused on the issue, but the passing of time guarantees we’ll forget how horrible a mass shooting was just in time for the next one.
Our allies and enemies around the globe are amazed that a nation with the stature of the United States cannot counter this numbness that contributes to our inability to solve this horrible problem. Indeed, each time headlines scream 20, 30 or 50 people are dead, we eventually shrug and forget our initial outrage.
Somebody must do something, but those with an interest in doing nothing — politicians, the gun lobby, our global enemies — bank on Americans’ tendency to shrug and forget. Time passes and the cycle of violence continues.
The Soviet Union’s murderous dictator, Joseph Stalin, said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
Those words shine a light on our problem. Might we be more certain to act if we thought about mass shootings in less abstract terms? Shouldn’t we remind ourselves that every victim was a father or friend, a cousin or co-worker, a sister or spouse?
Mass shootings certainly are a national tragedy, but imagine if someone you know and love was among those who were gunned down last weekend. That loss would haunt you for years, if not your lifetime.
How do we stop the violence? There is not one simple answer, but there are multiple issues we must address, and to do so will require a unified political response — exactly what President Trump called for on Monday.
Mass shootings are a public health crisis, and it will require action by our elected leaders to address it. If you have never written your congressional representative or senator, dust off that keyboard. They need to know that you’ve had it.
They need to know that inaction no longer is an option.