again and again and again

I didn’t want to write about mass shootings in the United States today. I’ve written way too many posts about this in the past, most recently about the Atlanta-area shootings last week.

But here we are again, mourning the deaths of ten people, including a responding police officer, at a Boulder, Colorado supermarket. A suspect is in custody, but it is early in the investigation so many details are not yet public.

It is likely that this will become the third Colorado mass shooting to lodge in the nation’s consciousness along with the high school in Columbine and the movie theater in Aurora.

The list of mass shootings in the United States is so long that only some of them are invoked as a litany. I live near Binghamton, New York, which suffered a 2009 mass shooting at the American Civic Association. This post that I wrote for the fifth anniversary of that shooting explains why I think Binghamton is not part of that litany.

There has long been a majority of the public in favor of taking measures nationally to curb gun violence. Some of the proposals are universal background checks to purchase firearms, limits on size of ammunition clips, banning of military-style assault weapons, and requiring gun licensing. At this point, each state has its own laws with some allowing municipalities to enact stricter regulations and others not.

There are also proposals to better diagnose and treat mental health issues. Some mass shooters, such as the one in Binghamton, suffer from mental illness. The biggest potential reduction in deaths from firearms related to mental health would be from self-inflicted shootings. In the United States, suicides account for the largest percentage of gun deaths every year. (For help with issues about suicide in the United States, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ .)

What compounds the recent tragedies in Atlanta and Boulder, though, is that there will be sadness, outrage, prayers, vigils, fundraisers, and hopes that this will be the time when Congress finally takes action – and they won’t. Again.

And then, inevitably, there will be another mass shooting which gets attention and hundreds of other murders and thousands of suicides which won’t.

And the cycle will repeat.

Overwhelming news

The pandemic has highlighted inequities in the society of the United States around race, ethnicity, national origin, and socioeconomic status, problems that have existed in our country since before its founding and that have insidiously endured through the centuries.

A few days ago, white police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while horrified onlookers tried to intervene and recorded Mr. Floyd’s final minutes and death.

Our nation, already mired in grief and denial from COVID-19, is now grappling again with deadly racism. George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers is appalling but, sadly, not unusual.

There are protests against racism and violence/death by law enforcement in cities around the country, remembering George Floyd and calling for justice while adding the names of other black men, women, and children who have been killed or injured by police. Depending on the location, there are different victims who are commemorated, as many cities have seen this type of violence.

The demonstrations have been peaceful during the day and have even seen protesters wearing masks and leaving space between them so as not to spread the coronavirus. In the evening, though, the anger sometimes gets out of control and results in looting and arson from the protesters and flashbang grenades, teargas, and pepper bullets from the police.

All racist incidents are bad and should be universally condemned, but they aren’t and racism continues and mutates and injures and kills.

Again and again.

I wish I had some helpful insight to offer that could make a difference.

All I can do is reiterate the universal message to treat others with respect, recognizing their inherent dignity.

Now and in the future.

more death

People who have been reading my blog this spring know that we have been dealing with a number of deaths. My mother-in-law. A long-time retired pastor. My father’s last sibling. My friend K.

And now, the whole United States is mourning the deaths of dozens of people and sending thoughts and prayers to dozens more who were injured after being shot in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the early morning hours.

It isn’t known if the club was targeted because it serves the gay community or if it was just a random choice by the attacker, who was killed when police broke in about three hours after the shooting started in order to free hostages.

Given that the attack has instilled terror, I will call it terrorism.

Although this will be the worst mass shooting in United States history, in terms of the highest number of victims, I am sad to say that I doubt it will bring about any changes in law or public policy.

An assault rifle was used by the murderer. It’s why he was able to kill and injure so many people so quickly. Still, I don’t think Congress will pass an assault weapons ban. They will just trot out their old platitudes – “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”  – overlooking the fact that a person with an assault rifle can kill and wound many people very quickly.  “More people should be armed to deter or stop attackers.” – ignoring that a trained, armed off-duty police officer was on the scene, providing security for the club, but he could not stop the attack. “Any restriction on guns is unacceptable.” – which is probably believed in Florida because it doesn’t even require licenses or registration to buy firearms.   “We shouldn’t deal with legislation when people are mourning.” – which is the excuse to not deal with it ever.

Orlando joins the long list of mass shootings in the United States. It will probably even join the short list of the shootings that get pulled out for comparison’s sake every time another egregious act occurs.

Living near Binghamton, New York, I have mixed feelings about how mass shootings get listed and compared.  I have written about the ACA shooting here; an article from vocativ calls it “the deadliest mass shooting everyone forgot.” 

Every mass shooting has its own hurts, sorrows, and repercussions which affect people for years.

So does any shooting.

But mass shootings affect not only people who are close to the victims or locality where they occur but also those of us who are far away.

This morning at church with T beside me, I couldn’t help but cry over so much death and injury.

So much to bear…