The isolation and silence of the pandemic closures was a relief in one way: The lack of mass shootings in the past year.
According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, mass shootings in the U.S. dropped 24% last April compared to April 2019, for example. Even while gun sales were on the rise.
But can that trend continue, now that the country is opening up again?
Based on the two shootings within a week’s time last month, it does not look like it.
I traveled the country for a year from mid-2018 to autumn of 2019, interviewing survivors of gun violence. Their stories broke my heart over and over again. But what I discovered beyond the heartbreak was most survivors—be they the physically or emotionally wounded or left behind due to the murders of family or friends—have trauma that is triggered by the news of yet another mass shooting.
One parent had not changed her small child’s bedroom for the six years since the little girl was murdered. Other parents were still numb; some sporting tattoos to remind them of their dead teens—or rather, to honor them, as they certainly did not need any reminder.
I interviewed one woman who was a witness to a church shooting four years earlier, and had to change her church affiliation because of the flashbacks that took place if she went to the house of worship she had been a member of for nearly four decades.
These and so many others. The wounded in the Tucson Safeway shopping center shooting, of course, that left many so seriously wounded and a 9-year-old girl and others dead.
The parents of the young woman shot down in the Colorado movie theater mass shooting. They now travel the country, bringing solace, guidance and support to the most recent survivors of public mass shootings. She told me that every time a new shooting takes place, she and her husband are thrown back in time. They relive the night she learned of her daughter’s death, screaming so loud that her husband ran into the room, thinking she was being attacked.
Now thousands of such survivors are taken back to the horrors of “their” shooting. Why am I not naming them? Because they are dozens within thousands of people cruelly touched by this dark American phenomenon.
I’m not against firearms. I don’t want to “take away” your guns. But after yet two more men with deadly weapons attacked our friends in Atlanta and Boulder, I wish someone had taken their guns away.
Today is Easter, a holiday celebrated for hope and redemption. So shouldn’t I focus on the ascension, rather than bullets flying, blood splattering, people being wounded and dying, leaving holes in yet more people’s lives? Yes, but we need to remember those who can no longer celebrate this or any holiday with their loved ones.
Today I’ll hike with a friend in the beauty of northern Arizona, and try to let go of the words and pained faces I met that year. I will celebrate the children who search for Easter eggs, the parents who perhaps help the giant bunny hide them, and thank goodness they still can.
Meanwhile, let’s bless all of those impacted by the ripple effect of gun violence, and hope our country comes to its senses soon. For as we huddled at home during the pandemic shutdowns, we did not provide targets for troubled guys toting guns.
While I’m thrilled that, post-vaccinations, we can slowly but surely venture out again, I wish we would now take action against the pandemic of gun violence that has been with us for decades.