How do we control rage that fuels mass shootings?
Chicago Tribune: A murderous madness broke out in America this weekend, extending from El Paso, Texas, to Dayton, Ohio, 13 hours later. Two shootings, two inexplicable events. Many dead.
This is a shock for the country, but one that’s too familiar: A gunman chooses to commit violence against innocent people, against anyone in range. The gunman selects the time and place and then seeks to kill and injure as many as possible in moments.
It happened in Texas and Ohio, and a version of events happened in Chicago too. Soon after the Dayton shooting, someone on the West Side started firing at a group of people at Douglas Park. Chicago police said seven people were sent to the hospital with bullet wounds.
In El Paso, a 21-year-old man armed with a rifle went on a rampage in a Walmart store after 10 a.m. local time, slaughtering at least 20 people, injuring 26 more, police said. The shooting went on for minutes. The store was crowded, the shopping area filled with as many as 3,000 people. The suspect is in custody.
Americans went to bed Saturday night troubled by the carnage in El Paso and awoke Sunday to news of more bloodshed attached to another city’s name: Dayton. Around 1 a.m. local time Sunday, an armed man began shooting outside a bar in a popular entertainment area. Police said the 24-year-old shooter, wearing body armor, killed nine people and injured dozens. The shooter is dead.
On cable news, the talk shifted from possible motives to “soft targets,” a concept of vulnerability that has become part of the everyday vernacular in America. Schools are soft targets, as are offices, shopping areas, nightclubs and outdoor festivals. All have been targeted by mass shooters. Last weekend, a gunman opened fire on the crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, killing three and injuring 13.
What kind of evil compels a perpetrator to harm and kill many strangers? Heinous acts of gun violence are neither rational nor predictable. Authorities in El Paso said they identified a rant-filled online “manifesto” they suspect was written by the alleged shooter and posted minutes before the gunfire started. The language suggested the shooting was a hate crime, El Paso police Chief Greg Allen said.
In Dayton on Sunday, investigators searched for leads that might explain the shooter’s decision to massacre partiers. The gunman’s use of body armor suggests a planned attack, a decision to do violence. Police took him down within moments. Among the dead was the suspect’s sister.
WE MUST DEAL WITH GUNS, ANGER
There will be many more discussions about El Paso and Dayton. About the availability of firearms of all types, and the willingness of some people to use them. America needs to deal with its propensity for gun violence and the availability of weaponry. Our belief is that there are steps Congress can take to reduce the opportunities for armed villains to kill. They include universal background checks and limits on magazine capacity. The Second Amendment guarantee that individuals have the right to own guns complicates restriction efforts.
But there is something else in play in America that needs to be confronted beyond the availability of guns. It is the rage that compels some people to cause mass, indiscriminate harm.
The madness of gun violence is something we lament and seek answers to in Chicago. Here, gang and drug trade-related shootings too frequently mean gun barrages that kill and wound multiple people. In Chicago early Sunday morning – yes, within an hour of the Dayton shooting – someone in a passing vehicle opened fire on people in Douglas Park, sending seven people to the hospital with gunshot wounds. It was a warm night. People were out late barbecuing. Three women, four men, all between the ages of 19 and 25, were struck with bullets around 1:20 a.m. They were soft targets.
Comparisons invite brutal scrutiny because they’re never quite right. True enough. Causality is a complex question. But whatever our problems as a society, some of them stem from, or create, a grievous and callous rage in some. An angry person with access to weapons represents a particular type of danger in the United States. In El Paso and Pittsburgh. In a Texas church and another in South Carolina. In a Florida school and a Florida nightclub. And on the streets of Chicago.
There is a streak of madness of America causing the country great harm. In El Paso, in Dayton and in Chicago.