Wednesday March 24 2021
There’s a desperation to see this pandemic in the rear-view mirror. I think we all feel this way, but with denial comes an imbalance to our thoughts. Our center of gravity is shifted. The news these past two weeks has been alarming and I struggle to understand if this newest violence is a by-product of the stress of living through a pandemic or if we’ve simply returned to Normal in US.
On March 16 there was the lone gunman involved in the Atlanta Spa Shootings, leaving eight people dead across three different locations. The shooter was on his way to another location when he was captured by police. Because six of the women were of Asian heritage, this is being considered a hate crime by the social media court system. The shooter, a 21-year-old white man, claims he was reacting to his sex addiction and just wanted to save others from this evil affliction. He considered killing himself, but thought he could be of more help this way. That’s his story for now, until his legal counsel changes it.
Six days later, the spa shootings became below-the-fold news after another mass shooting on March 22, this time in Boulder, Colorado. Another lone gunman and now ten people dead, including a police officer who put himself directly in harm’s way in a valiant effort to save others. The shootings began in the parking lot of a grocery store, then continued inside until the shooter finally surrendered. The man remains alive, as he was only shot in the leg by the police, and I’m still thinking about how I feel about that. I wonder how many of us were surprised that the shooter was not a white middle-class male, as these things go, but instead a Syrian-American Muslim who arrived in the states as a toddler and grew up here. There are claims of long-term mental illness by those who know him, although he legally purchased his weapons days before his rampage.
The violent death of innocents is horrific at its foundation, but is it worse when there is no motive for the crime? I’m asking the question, because I don’t know.
There is no universally accepted definition of when an event is considered a mass shooting, but a broad acceptance of the term is when an incident involves four or more victims of firearm-related violence. Some include domestic disputes when it’s only family members, other databases include only events in a public space. Most will exclude gang, mafia, and cartel violence. So these squishy stats can be tweaked about depending on one’s intention, especially when on the topic of gun control in the US.
An article on Wikipedia, List of Mass Shootings in the United States in 2021, lists this various criteria as well as maintains a tally based on such. It’s sobering to see, as one would expect. In past years, we saw more gun violence in schools and places of worship than we have over this past year. The simple answer to that is the closings due to COVID-19, yet the number of overall mass shooting events is already trending higher this first quarter of 2021 than the same time last year. And remember, the numbers don’t take into account the onesies and twosies of domestic or street violence, let alone the suicide rate.
I gave this journal entry some thought on whether I wanted to include it. I don’t have any answers to this deep and complex problem of gun violence in the United States; nothing to offer here but more questions. Yet, it feels like the COVID-19 shutdowns have a play in these numbers when we consider not only the stress of unemployment, but also a reduction in mental health resources to our marginalized communities.
We need to personify our anger and outrage at these violent crimes, so who do we blame? It’s hard to get our heads around the vague concepts of stress or mental illness when really, aren’t these only catalysts? I wonder, what’s our top priority … protecting ourselves from the unknowable violence in the minds of others or should we focus on developing a way to mitigate mental illness in our communities?
The answer is both, in my opinion.