Americans shouldn’t have to fret about dying in a supermarket, or at a spa, or anywhere for that matter. Catching a bullet should be far from their minds, but with a return to American normalcy comes the reality that anyone could die for nothing, just about everywhere.
Four people were hospitalized Thursday after a shooting in Gresham, Oregon. On Saturday, a pair of shootings at clubs in Dallas and Houston left a young woman dead and 12 people injured. Shortly thereafter, a shooter opened fire at what Philadelphia police termed an illegal party, killing one man and injuring five more.
“Flags that have barely been raised back to full mast after the tragic shooting in Atlanta that claimed eight lives and now the tragedy here, close to home, at a grocery store that could be any of our neighborhood grocery stores,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday.
The King Soopers location where the melee unfolded is one of about 1,000 providers in Colorado working to repel the killer Covid-19.
Steven McHugh’s son-in-law had queued for a dose of vaccine, like more than a million other Coloradoans. He was third in line, and his daughters chatted with their grandmother on the phone as he waited, McHugh said.
When the gunfire erupted, a bullet found its way to the woman at the front of the line. Her fate is unclear, as is much about Monday’s shooting. Authorities haven’t divulged a motive, but history tells us it won’t make sense.
McHugh’s son-in-law fled with the girls — one in seventh grade, the other in eighth — to an upstairs staffing area above the pharmacy and hid in a closet. Dozens more shots rang out, McHugh said, citing his son-in-law.
‘A normal we can no longer afford’
The US government doesn’t have a centralized database to track mass shootings, but anecdotal accounts indicate they were down during the pandemic as Americans were encouraged to stay home and many of their favorite gathering places were shut down.
“A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to choose between one type of tragedy and another. It’s time for leaders everywhere to listen to the American people when they say enough is enough — because this is a normal we can no longer afford.”
Their reasoning — when it’s attainable — fails to provide closure. Outrage invariably erupts after each massacre. One side demands stronger gun laws. They’re labeled un-American. Their opponents tout the Second Amendment. They’re labeled callous. A stalemate ensues until the next killing, then repeat.
It should surprise no one that a special interest group champions the Second Amendment. The amendment is a promise to every American, but 15 years prior to its ratification, the Declaration of Independence brought other promises of rights deemed “unalienable.”
The full guarantees of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” will never be achieved by Officer Talley, Tralona Bartkowiak, Suzanne Fountain, Teri Leiker, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray, Rikki Olds, Neven Stanisic, Denny Strong, Jody Waters — or any of the thousands of victims who fell before Monday in Boulder.
‘Part of the American experience’
In all likelihood, another person died by a gun while you were reading this. Despite the media’s breathless focus on mass shootings, gun violence takes myriad and frequent forms.
In his statement, Obama called out other scapegoats: disaffection, misogyny, hate. The United States has monopolies on none of these, though it has special brands that can be pernicious.
Doubt her? Google the details about last week’s shooting in Stockton, California, one of the most racially diverse cities in the nation.
Those neighborhoods often belong to minorities, who have had a particularly rough time of the pandemic as well. It’s another crushing American axiom that society’s ills tend to home in on people of color, and those victims must yell so much louder to be heard.
There will be much yelling in coming days, perhaps weeks. Obama is right when he said Americans possess the ability to “make it harder for those with hate in their hearts to buy weapons of war. We can overcome opposition by cowardly politicians and the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the ability of anyone to assemble an arsenal.”
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said “absolutely nothing” will stop the country’s return to pre-pandemic mass violence if lawmakers refuse to curb access to the weaponry.
“This has become part of the American experience, and let’s not forget: It’s completely unique to us,” he told CNN. “There’s not another similar country on Earth that experiences the same number, the frequency of mass shootings as we do, and it is directly attributable to the profusion and the availability of guns, particularly high-powered assault-style weapons and how easily pretty much anyone can acquire them here in this country.”