Point Austin: The Daily Carnage
Another month, another mass shooting ... will this one make a change?
On Sunday night, Feb. 18, in San Antonio, five people were shot outside a suburban restaurant on Highway 410. According to the police report, the victims included a 5-year-old boy, a 39-year-old woman, a 22-year-old man, a 50-year-old woman, and a 27-year-old man. The shooter, who "emptied a clip" at a family waiting on a bench outside the Texas Roadhouse, has not yet been apprehended.
On Monday, Feb. 26, in Detroit, a man shot and killed three people at a gas station, and killed his cousin at a nearby house, before crashing his car and shooting himself to death. Three of those killed were the shooter's family members, and he had recently been hospitalized for "hallucinations."
On Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Benton, Ky., a 15-year-old student pulled out a handgun at Marshall County High School and fatally shot two classmates, wounding 14 other people; a few more were injured while fleeing.
Those incidents straddle a currently more notorious event, the Feb. 14 slaughter of 17 people (with injuries, some serious, to 15 more), at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., by a former student.
Those listed above are just a few of the 35 "mass shootings" (four victims or more) recorded in the Gun Violence Archive since Jan. 1, 2018. The Archive (www.gunviolencearchive.org) is a nonprofit effort to thoroughly document gun violence in the U.S. The list above includes the two most serious 2018 incidents (Parkland and Benton), and it's worth noting that, had the 15-year-old Kentucky student had access to a semi-automatic rifle like the one employed in Florida (one of several such devastating and expensive weapons the Parkland shooter reportedly owned), the death and injury toll would certainly have been much higher.
In the wake of the Parkland massacre, which has sparked a national movement for gun control that looks like it might actually continue and eventually make some positive difference, it seems a reasonable moment to return to the Archive for an update on the epidemic of murder and mayhem founded upon our official American infatuation with guns. Perhaps like me, many Chronicle readers had already forgotten the Kentucky school shooting; among 35 mass shootings in less than two months, it's only natural to grow forgetful of the recurrent details of the daily carnage.
It's also worth reminding ourselves that the high-profile mass shootings are only the most visible and notorious fragment of the problem. The home page of the Archive summarizes two months of national bloodletting: Jan. 1 through this Tuesday, 8,610 incidents of gun violence, producing 2,324 deaths and 3,952 injuries. Eighty-nine children (11 years or younger) killed or injured; 443 teenagers (age 12-17) killed or injured; 260 "unintentional shootings." (The Archive notes that its numbers do not include the roughly 22,000 annual gun suicides, although it's worth recalling that suicide attempts by gun succeed at a rate far in excess of other methods.)
In case it's slipped your mind, the Archive reports that 2017 was the deadliest year on record for mass shootings in the U.S. – 345 in all, including two of the five worst in history, Las Vegas (58 dead) and Sutherland Springs (26).
Reason vs. BS
Despite all this accumulating bloody detail, it's hard to believe much will change, at least in the short term. If our political masters did nothing except make things worse after Sandy Hook (2012) or the Pulse nightclub (2016), why should this time be any different? Yet for the first time in a while, I'm allowing myself to feel a bit optimistic. That's largely due to the angry and effective energy of the Parkland students (and their many young allies elsewhere), who for the past few weeks have maintained visible pressure on public officials, while also highlighting the role played by the National Rifle Association, the political and lobbying wing of the gun manufacturing industry.
The exaggerated response of the NRA and its allies has been even more hysterical and extreme than usual – quite a high standard – suggesting that they are more than usually alarmed at these latest developments. Perhaps they're worried that the momentum is growing for stricter controls on guns and gun purchases, or even the commonsense restriction of military weapons to trained members of the military.
Nevertheless, from our feckless president down to our legislatures, the knee-jerk official answer to the problem of too many guns is ... more guns. Politicians who have done everything they can to undermine and underfund public schools suddenly want to spend millions on guns and combat training for schoolteachers. In response, instead of dismissing such lunacy with the mockery it deserves, too many media outlets are choosing to describe it as one of many reasonable options: an arsenal for every elementary school!
In the words of Parkland student Emma González: "We call BS." She also said, "If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind."