Mass Shootings: Are You Enraged Yet? – Part I

Can you remember back to March 24, 1998? That was the day two middle school students in Jonesboro, Arkansas, pulled a fire alarm at their school then, using a cache of weapons they had hidden in nearby woods, shot at students and teachers as they fled the building. Four students and a teacher were killed; ten others were injured.

The sad thing? This atrocious act isn’t even noted on Wikipedia’s list of Mass Shootings. That’s because there have been so many mass shootings in this country in recent decades and they have been so deadly that an “incident” resulting in four deaths doesn’t even make the list!

In is entry on Mass Shootings Wikipedia lists only the relatively small number that have resulted in ten or more deaths. There have been 29 of those since 1949. In that year, on September 6th, Howard Barton Unruh, a 28-year old World War II Veteran, took a 12-minute “Walk of Death” through his Camden, New Jersey, neighborhood. During that brief stroll, he killed 13 people, including three children—just slightly more than one per minute, and in addition left 3 people injured. Unruh, ultimately deemed criminally insane, was “remembered by his Section Chief as a first-class soldier who never drank, swore, or chased girls…spent much time reading his bible and writing long letters to his mother…. his hobby was guns, and his marksmanship…was deadly.”

It would be eighteen years before the next such tragedy. On August 1, 1966, having stabbed both “his mother and his wife to death the night before, Charles Whitman, a former Marine, took rifles and other weapons to the observation deck atop the Main Building tower at the University of Texas at Austin then opened fire indiscriminately. Over the next 90 minutes he killed 18 people (including one unborn child) and injured 31 others.”

A Mass Murder Summary
The Ten-Dead-or-More-Mass-Murder-Express started out at a relatively slow pace.1949. 1966. Eighteen years between the first and the second. But then only nine years until the third. 1975: On Easter Sunday James Urban Ruppert murdered 11 family members in his mother’s house in Hamilton, Ohio. Seven years later, 1982, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a former prison guard shot 13 people to death including seven children (five of them his own).

By the 1980s these horrific killings began occur with more frequency, and they were becoming more deadly. 1983: three men gunned down fourteen at the Wah Mee gambling club in a basement of the Louisa Hotel in Seattle (all died except for one). Then in 1984, there were two horrible shootings in one year: The Palm Sunday massacre (10 dead) in Brooklyn, New York. And then on July 18, the San Ysidro McDonald’s Massacre in California (22 dead, 19 injured); three days earlier, the perpetrator had told his wife “he suspected he might have a mental problem;” the day before he had waited in vain for a callback from a mental health clinic; the day of the shooting, prior to leaving the house, he told his bewildered and unsuspecting wife that “society had their chance.” In 1986: at the Edmond Post Office in Oklahoma, a postal employee’s rampage left 15 co-workers dead, 6 injured.

The next decade began and ended in bloodshed. In 1990: George Hennard drove his pickup truck through the plate glass front window of Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, immediately opened fire, killed 24 and wounded 27. 1991: James Edward “Pop” Pough, killed 9 and wounded 4 before committing suicide in a GMAC car loan office; “[t]he day before, he had killed a sex worker and her pimp, wounded two teenagers, and robbed a convenience store. 1999: The Columbine High School massacre, nearly incomprehensible in its violence and senselessness, left 14 dead, 24 injured, and sent the country reeling from the horrible realization that America’s schools were suddenly and forever no longer safe havens for our children and their teachers. In its wake, just a couple of months later, the lunacy of Mark Orrin Barton went relatively unnoticed beyond the confines of Atlanta. There, on July 29th, Barton killed a total of nine employees at two day trading firms where he had formerly been employed; he committed suicide before he could be apprehended; upon searching his home police found he had bludgeoned his wife and two children to death; three years earlier he had been suspected, in the beating deaths of his first wife and her mother but never charged; he remains suspect in those murders which have never been solved.

With the turn of the 21st century this madness really began to speed out of control: 2005: Red Lake, Minnesota, 10 dead, 5 injured; 2007: Virginia Tech, horrific statistics—33 dead 23 injured; 2009: Binghamton, Fort Hood, Geneva County, for a total of 39 dead, 43 injured. Pure madness. And to think that just four years earlier, in 2004, Congress had allowed the ban on the sale of assault rifles to lapse!

2012: On July 20, the hideous murder spree by a lunatic who dressed himself in tactical gear in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and shot into the trapped audience indiscriminately, killing 12 people and injuring 70 raised America’s horror-o-meter to a new level. Then on December 14, the unthinkable—the slaughter of 28 and wounding of 2 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We thought surely after seeing beautiful, innocent five-year-old kindergarteners murdered, surely Congress would finally do something to curb America’s freewheeling access to weaponry. But, no. Nothing. We were told that people, not guns, were the problem. Mental illness was the problem that needed to be addressed. And that, in fact, perhaps more guns would be the solution: armed guards in schools. Oh, and better security: locked doors, metal detectors. Lockdowns.

And so the slaughter continued: 2013: Washington Navy Yard 13 dead, 8 injured; 2015: Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon, 10 dead, 8 wounded; and San Bernardino, California 16 dead, 24 injured. Then, leaving reporters and commentators stretching their brains for adjectives powerful enough to describe the terror of it all and an enraged populace feeling vulnerable and helpless, body counts leapt hideously higher: 2016: 50 dead, 53 injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida. 2017: On October 1st, 59 dead and an unthinkable 851 injured (422 from gunfire) at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas; and a little over a month later, on November 5, Devin Patrick Kelley, a crazed 26-year-old, armed with an AR-556 semi-automatic rifle, stormed into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, 30 miles east of San Antonio, during the Sunday morning service. Yelling “ ‘Everybody die, motherfuckers’ …he proceeded up and down the aisle and shot at people in the pews.” Kelley killed 26, injured 20; afterwards police recovered 15 empty magazines, each capable of holding 30 rounds. Now for this year, 2018: On February 14th, 17 students were killed, 17 injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida (Happy Valentine’s Day); on May 18, 10 killed, 14 injured at Santa Fe High School; on October 27, 11 devout worshipers were killed, 7 injured, in the midst of their prayers at a Pittsburgh Synagogue; and on November 27th, 13 dead 25 injured at Borderline Bar and Grill, in Thousand Oaks, California, where young people were enjoying western line dancing; it was College Night. These 2018 “incidents” are only four of the 312 mass shootings that have taken place in this country this year!

So What do you call Murders of Fewer Than Ten-at-aTime?
That mass murder in Jonesboro, Arkansas, masterminded by the boys 11- and 13-years old doesn’t even make Wikipedia’s Mass Shooting list because “only” 5 died; nor does the June, 2015 shooting at Emanauel African Methodist Episcopal church; the death toll of 9 does not qualify this one for the Wikipedia list either. Same for the January 11, 2009, supermarket shooting in Tucson that left Gabbie Giffords severely wounded with a bullet in her brain (ah, only 9 actually DEAD).

The Washington Post ran a story on October 1, 2017 entitled “The terrible numbers that grow with each mass shooting.” It was updated just a few days ago, and draws its statistics from Gun Violence Archive. I’ve been “following” this site on Twitter and so, receive reminders on nearly a daily basis of just how appalling the statistics are. Click on any time you’re having a good day and really want to get depressed fast. For a sampling, here are some of the 2018 statistics, as of today: Total number of incidents: 50,322; deaths: 12,879; number of children killed or injured: 589, teens, 2,496. Mass Shootings: 313. Considering that the Thousand Oaks horror was number 307, looks like the shooters haven’t wasted any time continuing the slaughter.

No Safe Haven

There’s a map of the United States on the home page of Gun Violence Archive that marks every “incident” with a red dot. It looks like this country has a very bad case of measles. Also, this map makes you realize that if you live anywhere east of the Mississippi, ah, make that the Missouri, or maybe Rio Brazos in Texas (or possibly the Pecos), or in any of the states along the West Coast (you know, California, Oregon, Washington), oh or Arizona, or New Mexico—especially near Santa Fe or Albuquerque or Las Cruces and south toward El Paso, or, ah, Colorado—say near Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins (and obviously Aurora and Colorado Springs), and out along route Route 70…well those places are all nearly solidly red. So if you live in or near any of those places, I’d definitely suggest you never go out of the house without a flak jacket or bulletproof vest of some sort.

That should give you some peace of mind!