The chronicle of the past week’s headlines brings shivers to the spine and a churning to the stomach.
Twitter and YouTube feeds in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Aug. 4, were devastating. Police report an active shooting in a bar district of Dayton, Ohio. As the story unfolds at 5 a.m. that day, an active shooter killed at least nine people while wounding another 16 more. Authorities on the scanner were referring to the shooting as a “mass casualty incident.”
Breaking news hours earlier on Saturday Aug. 3, at about 10:39 a.m. Frantic 911 calls come across the wires in El Paso, Texas. A Walmart bustling with weekend shoppers for groceries and supplies is turned into a scene of chaos and confusion as a 21-year-old gunman goes on a shooting spree that leaves at least 20 dead and another 26 wounded. A mall’s joyous banter is exchanged for haunting echoes of screams and gunfire.
The ink was barely dry on the pages of The Virgianian-Pilot’s Saturday morning edition. Two men were killed and three others wounded — including a two-year-old toddler — from an incident on the evening of Friday Aug. 2, in the downtown area of Suffolk. One of the men was simply seated in the front seat of his parked car.
Two days before on Tuesday, July 30, five people were hospitalized after a shooting at a party on the east side of Columbus, Ohio. Police say that they believe the gunman was among those who were in attendance at the party. All are expected to recover. In Southaven, Mississippi a disgruntled Walmart employee fired on about 60 workers leaving one killed inside the store and another in the parking lot.
Have the images of the scene from Sunday afternoon on July 28 faded from your mind yet? People trying to flee up one aisle and down another as a lone gunman stirred mass hysteria in Gilroy, California, at a garlic festival. The grim results left four dead and another dozen injured.
Because of the vivid coverage from Gilroy, perhaps you didn’t know of the six deaths and two injuries from a shooting in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, on that same day. Or the one dead and five injured in Philadelphia. Or the four injured in Washington, D.C. Or the four injured in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Or the four injured in Chicago.
The weekend started on Saturday, July 27. Wichita, Kansas, is home to the news of one death and three others injured at a shooting rampage at a party in the early morning hours. Later that Saturday, a community festival in a borough of Brooklyn, New York, would be coming to a close when gunfire would erupt leaving one dead and a dozen others wounded. Thousands of people were attending the Old Timer’s Festival. The gunshots rang out from a playground area in the park.
Is it necessary to talk about the one death in Kennewick, Washington, a day earlier? Perhaps we can skip mentioning the four dead in Canoga Park, California, from July 25.
Mass shootings sprayed across the country in just over a week’s time. And that number doesn’t include the individual killings in almost every state. Each day. Each week. Each month.
As of the end of July, which was the 212th day of our year, there had been 248 mass shootings in the country, according to the information gleaned from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization. For the first time since 2016, we enter the month of August with an average of more than one mass shooting a day in the United States.
Saturday evening, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon tweeted a message of sympathy for the city of El Paso in general and his employees in particular. It isn’t just the victims that are traumatized by a mass shooting incident. His note said, “I cannot believe I’m sending a note like this twice in one week.”
The video footage from the Gilroy festival sheds some disheartening light on the gun issue. According to coverage on CNN, the festival has a strong presence of security. There was a police tent set up on the site, officers were on horseback and motorcycles and all who entered were checked with metal detector wands. Officers engaged the shooter in less than a minute’s time. The footage proves that the gunman was able to fire many more shots than just the ones that actually connected.
In the midst of researching the horrifying information for this article, the words of Daniel Webster appeared in the Google search. "If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is to become of us as a nation. If the power of the Gospel is not felt through the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end."
In my home growing up, there was a coffee table perched in front of the couch in the living room. The bottom shelf of the table was home to the week’s pile of newspapers. News crossed our eyes more slowly. We read and re-read. We digested it, trying to make sense of its importance. We began to plot in our minds a better path, an easier route and a safer passage. We didn’t throw away the papers until the weekend.
Today we blink and it’s not even yesterday’s news. It’s news of the previous hour. Somehow, it’s never understood, never figured out. It’s just replaced.
From the Catbird Seat, being bombarded by the plethora of incidents may desensitize our minds, but not our souls. Burying our heads in the sands of information overload only clogs our judgment and procrastinates our response. The tragic real story is not the gruesome loss of life; it is the ludicrous pretense that we don’t have a problem.
— Tom May is a freelance writer and educator, and a columnist for the News and Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.