Hoping for change
Another day, another mass shooting. Scratch that. Another day, another couple of mass shootings. This past Saturday, a man wrote a racist, anti-Hispanic manifesto before opening fire at Walmart in El Paso, Texas. More than 24 people were injured and at least 20 people were killed in the shooting. Less than 24 hours later, a gunman murdered nine people and injured 27 others in a popular nightlife district in downtown Dayton, Ohio.
That’s 29 people killed in two mass shootings more than a thousand miles apart. These people weren’t too different from you and me. They went to the grocery store on a busy Saturday morning like many of us did this weekend. They spent time with loved ones downtown, just letting off some steam the way we all do every now and then.
Replace “El Paso” with “Berryville” and “Dayton” with “Eureka Springs,” and the story is the same. It could happen to us. We could see our hometown on the front page of national newspapers with caution tape across the entrance to our local shopping center. We could see censored (and sometimes uncensored) images of our friends lying dead on hot concrete. We could hear the world weep with us as we mourn. It could be me. It could be you. It could be any of us.
I’m not saying this to scare you, and it’s not like I need to anyway. We are all scared. Everyone responds to mass shootings in different ways, but we all have the same fear deep down. Living in America means living in fear for your life when you go to concerts, the grocery store or downtown on a Saturday night. It is absolutely terrifying.
Every time a mass shooting occurs, you can predict what happens next. Our politicians offer their oh-so-helpful thoughts and prayers instead of making laws that would stop future tragedies. Your uncle posts on Facebook about how a good guy with a gun could have prevented people from being killed in the shooting. Your cousin comments about how common sense gun control measures would help more. They talk at each other, like we all do, and leave the conversation unchanged, like we all do.
We have got to stop leaving conversations unchanged. We have to hear each other out. What we are doing right now is clearly not working, because people are being slaughtered at the grocery store. The grocery store! What’s your biggest concern when you go grocery shopping? I’m usually worried about finding the ripest pears. I am not thinking about what to do if someone opens fire in the produce section, but perhaps I should be.
I’ve written on this topic many times in the past. I have an uneasy feeling I’ll be writing about it for years to come. It can be easy to ignore mass shootings when they don’t personally affect you. I hope I’ll never have to write about a mass shooting happening in our sleepy little community, but I can’t write it off as a possibility. It can happen anywhere. It can happen here.
So what can we do to change things? I’m assuming we all want this to change –– nobody wants more mass shootings, right? FBI behavioral research has found that 80-90 percent of mass shooters leaked warning signs, so I suggest we start listening to the people around us. If you see something, say something –– no matter how big or small.
And for those of you who believe America has a problem with guns, call your senator and tell them you want background checks on all gun sales. Tell them you are scared. Remind them that this could happen anywhere.
Don’t wait until it happens here to do something.