By Kate McCormick
We are only four months into 2021 and there have already been over 100 mass shootings in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA). How appropriate is it for America that not only are we worrying about contracting COVID-19 throughout our daily lives, but we cannot even go to a grocery store, or any public place really, without running the risk of falling victim to yet another shooting?
The definitions of language surrounding gun violence are often debated, but what is this an abbreviation for? One identifies a “mass shooting” as an event that causes the death or injury of four or more people, excluding the shooter. The FBI defines “active shooter incidents” as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”
Most recently, news broke covering the March 22 Boulder, Colorado grocery store shooting that killed ten people, including an on-duty police officer. According to a senior law enforcement source for CNN, the alleged shooter, Ahmed Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, passed a background check and purchased a Ruger AR-556 just days before the killing.
Families are mourning the loss of Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona “Lonna” Bartkowiak, 49; Teri Leiker, 51; Eric Talley, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62 and Jody Waters, 65.
Not even a week earlier, on March 16, a white gunman shot and killed eight people, including six Asian women, across three separate spas in Atlanta, Georgia.
These victims include Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Daoyou Feng, 44; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Suncha Kim, 69 and Soon Chung Park, 74.
Community members and some Georgia lawmakers are urging the charges against the suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, to be labeled as hate crimes, and outrage sparked after case spokesman, Capt. Jay Baker stated that the gunman was just having a “really bad day.”
Plenty of people manage to have a really bad day and not commit mass acts of violence, and this rhetoric not only trivializes such an important issue that is the prevalence of gun violence in America, but feeds into the all-too-familiar habit of diminishing the level of accountability these gunmen, especially white gunmen, need to be held to.
Another serious problem in the conversation surrounding gun violence in America is the blame placed on mental illness. Many people living with mental illness every day do not commit mass acts of violence and conditions that are already stigmatized shouldn’t be used as a cop-out for deeper motives or intentions, like, for instance, a racially motivated attack.
Gun violence in America has been prevalent for years, and yet it is not going away. The alleged Colorado shooter, for instance, passed a background check, and still went on to commit a massacre – that should not be allowed to happen. To make a change we need to have uncomfortable conversations. It seems that time and time again, acts of violence break all over the news, followed by pledges to pass legislation and ‘do better,’ only for more lives to be lost senselessly and in close succession.
According to data from CDC WISQARS and Mother Jones Mass Shooting Database, presented by UC Davis Health, firearms caused 39,740 deaths in 2018 and 61% of firearm deaths are suicides.
The culture that America has created surrounding gun violence touches every facet of living, and any truly responsible gun owner should argue that there needs to be a change in how accessible firearms are in this country. The underlying anxiety experienced by so many Americans while simply going shopping or to school or the movies should not and cannot continue to be normalized.