- Schuyler Beltrami
Mass Shootings in Georgia and Colorado Remind Americans of Old Normal
As America begins to climb out of its COVID-induced world and searches for the pre-Pandemic normal, mass shootings have increased in frequency around the country.
The year 2020 was a year full of negative news, but one of the few positives to come from that year was the drop in mass shootings in the United States. According to the USA Today, the number of mass shootings, defined as a shooting event in which four or more people are killed in a short amount of time in the same place, in the first quarter of 2020 averaged around 57 mass shootings per month. This number dropped to around 35 mass shootings per month during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The reason for this is simple to explain, as most people were forced indoors for longer periods of time, with most public places like workspaces, restaurants and houses of worship being closed due to local ordinances. (It is worth mentioning that COVID-19 did lead to a rise in domestic violence crimes, with many people in abusive relationships being forced to spend more time confined with their abusive partners). As the vaccine rollout has continued to expand in the United States, more people are comfortable going out and state rules regarding the operation of most businesses has loosened in many states in the USA, providing an environment for more people to be out in public again. As the United States can see the goal in sight of returning to the “old normal” of pre-Pandemic life, one of the markers of the old normal has made an unfortunate comeback as well: mass shootings. Although there were small mass shootings throughout the country in the first quarter of 2021, many of which did not reach the national spotlight, in the past week two significant events have led to renewed rounds of mourning and hope for a long-needed reform to gun laws in the United States. The first happened in and around the city of Atlanta, Georgia when a gunman opened fire at three spas and murdered eight people, six of whom were employees of the spas and who were of Asian ethnicity. Although this attack has not been labelled as a hate crime by local investigators, it nonetheless continues a horrific pattern of anti-Asian crimes committed in the United States since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Most experts feel that racist, inflammatory language, most notably from former President Donald Trump who labelled COVID-19 the “China Virus”, about the Chinese origins of the Coronavirus have led to attacks against Chinese-Americans with many victims being specifically targeted by people who believe that Chinese-Americans are responsible for the COVID Pandemic entering into the United States. In the specific case in Atlanta, the suspected gunman admitted to having a “sexual addiction” for which he felt guilty and targeted the spas for this reason.
Just a few days later, a gunman entered a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, outside of the state capital of Denver, and killed 10 people, including a police officer. The suspect was apprehended by police after a prolonged firefight with the responding officers in which the suspect was shot in the leg. The suspect is a naturalized US citizen who was born in Syria and had lived in Colorado since he was a child. According to police, he had a history of mental illness which included “paranoid and asocial behavior”.
Almost immediately after the two shootings, President Joe Biden joined a large chorus of voices aiming to have assault rifles and military-style tactical gear, which were used by both gunmen, to be banned in the United States. This is far from the first time that this appeal has been made and is almost always called for after a mass shooting in the country, as a majority of gunmen use assault rifles with high-powered magazines (most notably the AR-15) as well as military-style tactical gear in their attacks. Despite the attacks and the fact that a majority of Americans support changes to gun laws in the United States, it is nearly impossible for any true change to happen, even with Democrats in control of both Houses of Congress. This lies mostly in the reason that the Democrats’ majority in the Senate is as small as it can be, having only 50/100 seats in the Senate (their majority comes from the fact that the Vice President, who is also the President of the Senate, is granted an emergency tie-breaking vote, so the Democrats really have 51 “votes” in the Senate). Although a wide majority of Democratic lawmakers and voters support changing gun laws, some Democratic Senators who are in true danger of losing their seats (specifically Democratic Senators from West Virginia and Arizona) are apprehensive of revising gun laws since any change to gun laws is extremely unpopular among Republicans and more conservative Independent voters, who are desperately needed for any Democrat to win in these more Republican-leaning states. Although it is an uphill climb, urgent need for sensible gun reform could finally become a possibility, if the Democrats can be unified in their efforts to change gun laws in the United States.
When Americans imagine a return to the old, pre-Pandemic normalcy, they often imagine travelling, seeing family members, and eating inside restaurants without the need for masks or social distancing. Unfortunately, this old normalcy also includes mass shootings and other tragedies which seem to be an inseparable part of the American Experience, rooted in outdated gun laws, and inadequate funding and commitment to fixing mental health issues.
The Millennial Agora extends its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims of the heinous attacks in Atlanta and Boulder.