Life in pandemic America is slowly working its way back to normal — for better and for worse.
A mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, Monday hit this nation like a hard slap in the face, reminding us that “normal” can have a tragic underside.
As of this writing, the shooting at a supermarket left 10 people dead, including a police officer. According to law enforcement, the suspected gunman, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, allegedly carried out this attack with an AK-15 purchased just six days earlier.
The news of the shooting was both stunning and awkwardly familiar, which may say a lot about our focus on the pandemic causing our inattention to an old, nagging, murderous matter.
Late last month, USA Today reported that 2020 saw a 50% jump in mass shootings, likely due to the social and psychological fallouts of the pandemic. (A “mass shooting” is defined as an incident in which at least four people are injured and/or murdered, not including the shooter.) It was an understated aspect of the COVID crisis that received relatively little attention.
When that USA Today article was published, experts said the early statistics for 2021 indicated a promising trend downward in shootings as vaccinations increased and life began edging back toward familiar territory.
Since then, eight people were gunned down last week in Atlanta — with Asians making up a large number of the victims, which is another issue for another time — and now, we have 10 dead in Boulder.
The math is grotesque: one week, two major shooting rampages, 18 murdered.
(Actually, the Boulder incident was the seventh mass shooting in the U.S. in the past week. According to the CNN website, other shootings occurred in Stockton, California; Gresham, Oregon; Atlanta; Houston; Dallas and Philadelphia.)
America’s relatively dormant gun debate has quickly reacquired its sense of urgency in Congress. This will, of course, rekindle familiar arguments on both sides — the angry rhetoric that is also part of what’s normal in this country.
But fevered political grandstanding alone isn’t going to stem this plague of violence.
At some point, there will have to be sober reckoning that enough is enough, that the ongoing epidemic of violence is too much for even a gun-loving country like America to bear.
At some point, enough people must recognize that more must be done to address this uniquely American crisis.
In the meantime, how many people will have to die?
For the 10 victims at Boulder — Tralona Bartkowiak, age 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; Rikki Olds, 25; Neven Stanisic, 23; Denny Strong, 20; Eric Talley, 51; and Jodi Waters, 65 — the answer to that question is will come too late.
It will also be too late for the eight Atlanta victims.
And it will come too late for the next victims of the next unthinkable nightmare, which will occur in a place that people will swear seemed safe and immune from such ghastly harm.
Until that day comes, if it ever does, America will carry on as normal — which is tragically unacceptable.