Everyone has a story about the night of August 3rd. You had friends or family who, that night, unwittingly ventured into the site of America’s 251st mass shooting this year. If you were fortunate, you probably woke up to a barrage of frantic texts or calls from loved ones desperate to assuage their worst fears. Some of you weren’t so fortunate. Some of you, at one moment, were on East 5th breathing in the late-night summer air that always smelled of BBQ and tacos but, at another, were witness death and carnage. Some of you were asleep, awoken by gunshots echoing into the night, forcing you out of your bed and down into your apartment’s lobby, where you’d pull in wounded victims from the now worn-torn sidewalk. And then there are those of you who will never even have a chance to read this.
In the coming days you’ll hear more stories, and new information, from your friends and on news channels. You’ll keep scrolling through Facebook and Twitter trying to make sense of it all, but you’re not sure you ever will. Because this just couldn’t happen, not where you live. Before August 3rd, these shootings all started to blend together and you’d always think how something needed to be done. But on August 4th you woke up feeling different. You’ve been there. You’ve walked the streets. You’ve dined at the restaurants. America, as it is, conditioned you to be numb to such tragedies, but not this morning. You’ll continue to follow up for weeks about the shooter’s motive, begging for an explanation you can wrap your hands around. Las Vegas has been searching for something like this since 2017.
This may be your story, but it’s not unique. It’s an all too familiar cycle in America. Your feelings are the same as those in El Paso or Gilroy or Chicago, and probably won’t be different from the next. I know, it doesn’t sit well with you. It’s hard for you to think about how common this feeling has become across the country. You fear the list will just go on.
So before you reach back into the depths of your memory to Memorial Day, you take a look at current list of mass shootings this year. This is what you see:
Chicago, Illinois; Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Pomfret, Maryland; Suffolk, Virginia; Elkhart, Indiana; Southaven, Mississippi; Haskell, Oklahoma; Rosenberg, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; Gilroy, California; Uniontown, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Wichita, Kansas; Brooklyn, New York; Albemarle, North Carolina; Los Angeles, California; Pembroke Park, Florida; Chicago, Illinois;
Washington, D.C.; Jersey City, New Jersey; Clairton, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois; Lubbock, Texas; San Antonio, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Manson, North Carolina; Washington, D.C.; Flint, Michigan; Wichita, Kansas; Chicago, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Jose, California; St. Clair Shores, Michigan; Charlotte, North Carolina; Brooklyn, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Reno, Nevada; Gravette, Arkansas; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; Rockford, Illinois; Fresno, California; Katy, Texas; Washington Park, Illinois; Wellston, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; Oakland, California; Yucaipa, California; Dallas, Texas; Bay Shore, New York; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Hartford, Connecticut; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Paterson, New Jersey; Hamden, Connecticut; Atlanta, Georgia; Akron, Ohio; San Jose, California; Abbeville, South Carolina;
Columbus, Ohio; La Jolla, California; South Bend, Indiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Hampton, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Saginaw, Michigan; Richmond, California; Chicago, Illinois; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Newark, New Jersey; San Antonio, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky; Des Moines, Iowa; Shreveport, Louisiana; West Des Moines, Iowa; Charlotte, North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Aurora, Colorado; Henning, Tennessee; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; White Swan, Washington;
Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Santa Rosa, California; Portsmouth, Virginia;
Chicago, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Macon, Georgia; Allendale, South Carolina;
Virginia Beach, Virginia; Robbins, Illinois; Cleveland, Texas; Trenton, New Jersey; Washington D.C.; Stockton, California; La Crosse, Virginia; Washington D.C.; Chicago, Illinois; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Baltimore, Maryland; Chesapeake, Virginia; Trenton, New Jersey; Alexandria, Louisiana; Columbus, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Portland, Oregon; Cascilla, Mississippi; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Atmore, Alabama; Long Beach, California; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Muncie, Indiana; Sacramento, California; Cleveland, Ohio; St. Rose, Louisiana; St. Louis, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; Paulsboro, New Jersey; Chestnuthill Township, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; Highlands Ranch, Colorado; North Bergen, New Jersey; Oceano, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Indianapolis, Indiana; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore, Maryland; Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; West Chester Township, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Baltimore, Maryland; Jackson, Mississippi; Jackson, Michigan; Poway, California; Hugo, Oklahoma; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Los Angeles, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Corpus Christi, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; Germantown, Maryland; Stockton, California; Vallejo, California; Miami, Florida; Carbondale, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Kansas City, Missouri; Shreveport, Louisiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; Winston-Salem, North Carolina;
Wilmington, Delaware; Chicago, Illinois; Tallahassee, Florida; Panama City, Florida; Stockbridge, Georgia; Hermanville, Mississippi; Covington, Kentucky; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; North Charleston, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; North Las Vegas, Nevada; San Francisco, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Phoenix, Arizona; Augusta, Georgia; Las Vegas, Nevada; Rochelle, Georgia; Camden, New Jersey; Mobile, Alabama; Missoula, Montana; Harvey, Illinois; Paterson, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; Shreveport, Louisiana; Oakland, California; Chicago, Illinois; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Oakland, California; Birmingham, Alabama;
Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Baltimore, Maryland; Houston, Texas; Covington, Tennessee; Solon Township, Michigan; Evansville, Indiana; Henderson, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Clinton, Mississippi; Aurora, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida; Livingston, Texas; Petersburg, Virginia; Brooklyn, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; San Antonio, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Chicago, Illinois; San Diego, California; Houston, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; Newark, New Jersey; Indianapolis, Indiana; Albany, Georgia; Ascension Parish and Livingston Parish, Louisiana; State College, Pennsylvania; Rockmart, Georgia; Sebring, Florida; Miami, Florida; Gaffney, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Owensboro, Kentucky; Jacksonville, Florida; Palmdale, California; Little Rock, Arkansas; Phoenix, Arizona; Roswell, New Mexico; Hurt, Virginia; Houston, Texas; Torrance, California; Texas City, Texas; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Columbia, South Carolina; and Tallahassee, Florida
You arrive back to your recent memory, Memorial Day. It wasn’t long ago you felt like this. Your heart ached as you watched more than a dozen tornadoes ravage the Miami Valley, killing one and completely destroying homes and neighborhoods. That was then, but astonishingly, it all feels the same now when you think about it. Both events rocked Dayton to its core, and both were followed by an outpouring of community support. But deep down, you know these are two separate tragedies. One born of earth and wind, and one born of hatred and violence. One targeted victims, the other indiscriminate in its path. One on a single city street, the other throughout the entire Miami Valley. And then you really come to terms with it. In 2019 America, a mass shooting can feel as unstoppable as a natural disaster.
You know mass shootings can happen almost anywhere, as long as you’re in the United States, and any time (even in 24 seconds). At least tornadoes only form in the areas where atmospheric conditions are right. You remember the drills for each when you were growing up. For tornadoes, you’d go into the hallway and stick your head between your knees until you were just uncomfortable enough. For lockdowns, you’d lock the door, turn off the lights, and remain in complete silence with the other twenty-some kids at a time of sheer hysteria. Back then, the drills were mostly just a chance for you and your friends to take a break from class and goof around. But what would happen if a tornado actually did rip through an elementary school, resulting in many student deaths? There’d be new precautions and maybe even new storm shelters built under every school. It’s a reactive response, but you’re content with the fact that these new safeguards might prevent such a loss from happening again. What if a shooter rampaged through an elementary school, killing young children in droves? Of course, you don’t have to imagine it. It happened more than six years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary when 20 children and six adults were killed. You think about the aftermath, or lack thereof. Nothing happened, nothing changed.
The debate will rage on whether it’s focused on mental health or the fact that someone in Dayton can order military-style weapons online from Texas, your prescribed medication can’t be transferred to a pharmacy across town because it’s a controlled substance. Here are a couple ways to arm yourself with knowledge in the hope of at least slowing the revolving door of shootings, thoughts & prayers, and silence:
- Understand America’s gun death epidemic. FiveThirtyEight’s feature is a great place to start. Most gun deaths in America are suicides, a clear indicator that mental health needs to be more prominent in our gun ownership laws. While the incidence of mass shootings is much lower, it is the lowest hanging fruit. It’s timing. Ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines so save precious seconds and precious lives. Mental health and an assault weapon ban are not mutually exclusive, and they can’t be, for our children’s sake.
- Don’t allow the debate to sway. You will find pundits and talking heads framing any attempt at reform as a method to pull all guns from the hands of every American. Everytown has in-depth analysis of the correlation between assault rifles and mass shootings. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban made sense then, and should be considered now. Let the debate start there.
- Think Globally. This issue is uniquely American, so why not look across the globe to see what works? You will find gun laws that range from a lifetime ammunition maximums to restricting each firearm for a specific purpose.
- Don’t be afraid to speak out. Gun control has become one of the most controversial and explosive topics for public debate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a productive discussion.
- Contact your Representatives and Senators. But don’t yell at their unpaid interns. Having manned these phones before, there’s actually a system where elected officials log constituent concerns. State your concern and be sure it’s been logged. Contact Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, and urge him to allow lawmakers to vote on gun control legislation.
- Don’t let anyone tell you nothing can be done, period.
- Remain proud of the community we all call home. When racism came to town, Dayton responded by drowning out their bigotry with its love. When natural disaster struck, Dayton responded by showing up to complete strangers’ homes to help them rebuild their lives. This hatred and violence should be no different, let’s respond.
About the author: Tony’s a current, but not yet disgruntled, government worker, aspiring fiction writer, and in-apartment resident DJ. He’s a Loyola Rambler alum, but currently lives in Dayton where he was born and raised. He enjoys reading and writing science fiction that tries to explain the world when it won’t explain itself.