Watching what evolved in Boulder, Colorado the last few days was horrifying. It’s inconceivable that people just minding their own business shopping for food, trying to get their Covid vaccines, or prescription medicines could be struck down so brutally. But what’s worse is that it’s become such a common occurrence we seem to mourn briefly, spout words of indignation, and then move on too quickly.
We all think it can’t happen in our own community. It happens somewhere else, in other towns, other neighborhoods. We feel awful and sad when it does but confident ours is different, immune, safer.
Until it isn’t.
My daughter and I were blocks from the shopping center where Gabrielle Gifford was having an informal gathering for constituents. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined that a madman would casually walk up to the Congresswoman, shoot her point blank in the head and then turn his gun on those around him. We later learned he had a semi-automatic weapon with four magazines, two capable of holding 33 rounds. Thirty-one shell casings were found at the site. By the time he ran out of bullets and was tackled while reloading, six lives were destroyed and 13 wounded.
Blocks from the action my daughter and I sat in traffic for hours. Shocked at the news and devastated by the horror evolving over the radio, we began to realize just minutes had separated us from those who’d been at risk.
Seven months later my daughter was getting fast food at a Jack In The Box just around the corner from our house. As she later told the story- a car turned into the restaurant parking lot followed on the heels by another. Before she understood what was happening a man exited his vehicle, walked over to the other car and shot the driver several times. He then casually walked back to his car and slowly drove around the parking lot, all the while staring at my daughter who was frozen just feet away unsure where to run. He didn’t shoot again. But he could have.
It was reported as a road rage murder because the shooter had been cut off in traffic.
Both were in our neighborhood. Both were places we used to believe were safe. I still feel vulnerable and scared. Those feelings never really go away, they just get stuffed deep inside and ignored in the hopes they’ll never resurface. But they do. It felt like a punch in the gut when I watched the events unfold in Boulder.
There were more mass shootings across the U.S. in 2019 than there were days in the year, 417, according to a gun violence research group. 2020 topped that at 578. By August 2020, there were already more mass shootings than those from 2014 to 2018, combined. To date, there have been 103. More mass shootings in the first quarter of any previous year. Colorado was one of 7 shootings in as many days.
It’s a national disgrace, made worse by the despicable fact that this happens over and over and over and over and over again. No one is coming for our guns. You want one to protect your home? Hunt? Fine. But who needs a weapon that can shred a hundred bodies in as many seconds? What’s the argument against requiring a background check? I had to wait three days to purchase mine. Or keeping them out of the hands of those with violent offenses? Research shows these measures can save lives.
The vast majority of American citizens overwhelming support some form of reasonable gun control, and yet Congress refuses to step up and enact them. In the meantime lives are lost.
Its hard enough to walk into a place of worship, stadium, school, theater, or grocery store and fear what may happen. To look for exits “just in case.” But when I see someone openly carrying, after I fight down the overwhelming panic and bile that threatens to shut me down, I stop what I’m doing and leave. The shopping center where Tucson suffered its mass shooting is still my local grocery store. When I pull into the parking lot, there’s a brief moment when the memories come flooding back. It’s fading with time but each new shooting reminds me, it’s like playing Russian roulette. I wasn’t in the middle of any shooting. But I came close. My daughter has to live with the day her sense of safety was shattered. My heart breaks for all those killed or ripped from loved ones and the survivors who have to struggle through the aftermath.
How many more will we cry and mourn over? How much longer will we scream and yell that enough is enough? How many more lives will have to be lost before we finally do something to make it stop?