Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
New killings add sad sense of inevitability to Parkland remembrance
The news out of Michigan the night before the Parkland remembrance might have seemed a shocking coincidence in a society less inured to mass murder.
Another unhinged gunman. Another campus shooting spree. Another eruption of random, mindless gun violence. Another list of innocents lost to America’s gun fetish.
On the fifth anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, a report that three students had been shot dead and five others critically wounded at Michigan State University only added to a numbing sense of inevitability. As if gun massacres were simply an inexorable aspect of American life.
The Michigan State carnage was the 72nd mass shooting (defined as at least four victims killed or maimed) in the U.S. since Jan. 1, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Most of those shootings went unremarked in the national news, though you might vaguely remember that 12 were shot dead and nine others wounded on Jan. 21 at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California.
Last year, the Gun Violence Archive counted 647 mass shootings, 690 the year before. So many, so often, that it has become a statistical likelihood that some fresh round of killings would impinge on the memorial observance of a previous rampage.
America keeps piling up such gruesome coincidences.
Several young survivors of the Michigan State violence had also survived the 2019 mass shooting at Oxford High School just north of Detroit — four killed, seven injured.
“Tonight, I am sitting under my desk at Michigan State University, once again texting everyone ‘I love you,’ “MSU freshman and Oxford High School graduate Emma Grace Riddle tweeted Monday night, during her déjà vu from hell.
Michigan State student Jackie Matthews told reporters she had spent the day of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School killings (27 murders) in lockdown at a nearby Newtown, Connecticut middle school, terrified, hunkered under her desk for so long she suffered a serious back injury.
Then, 3,500 American mass shootings later, Jackie found herself once again hiding from a campus killer.
Double mass shooting survivors have become an only-in-America phenomenon. Several lived through the 2017 Las Vegas music festival massacre — 58 killed, 500 injured — then found themselves under fire a year later at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California — 13 killed, 16 injured.
Three women who became acquainted through a Facebook survivors’ support group after the Las Vegas killings were terrorized again in 2019 when they rendezvoused at the Gilroy Garlic Festival near Fresno — three dead, 17 wounded.
Gilroy and Las Vegas double-survivor Alicia Olive told reporters, “To not do anything and just say, ‘Oh well, that’s life, that’s America’ is not enough.” But since Gilroy, America has suffered another 2,200 mass shootings.
On Wednesday, the day after the Parkland anniversary, the gunman from last year’s racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket — 10 killed, three wounded — was sentenced to life imprisonment in New York.
Just the week before in Texas, the white nationalist who confessed to targeting Hispanic shoppers at an El Paso Walmart in 2019, killing 22, was given 90 consecutive life sentences.
On Wednesday, exactly a week later, several survivors of that Walmart shooting found themselves in a nearby El Paso mall as another shooting broke out, killing one, wounding three.
Michigan double-survivor Emily Grace Riddle, hiding from a school shooter for the second time in her young life, tweeted, “When will this end?”
Not anytime soon. Certainly, not in Florida where, even as the anniversary of the Parkland killing approached, lawmakers were pushing a bill through the legislature that would eliminate license and training requirements for carrying concealed firearms.
Apparently, the 17 dead and 17 injured at Parkland in 2018, and the 49 dead and 50 wounded at the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, are considered acceptable losses in Florida politics.
Gun-rights absolutists want even more concessions out of Tallahassee, demanding an end to government impediments against their “God-given” right to openly display a pistol or rifle in public.
Their god, apparently, values gun rights more than lives of students in Parkland, East Lansing, Oxford, Sandy Hook, Uvalde or any of the kids killed, wounded or traumatized in the 366 school shootings since the Columbine High School slaughter in 1999.
More than the lives of the gundowned shoppers in El Paso or Buffalo, worshipers in Pittsburgh or Charleston or Sutherland Springs, bar patrons in Orlando or Thousand Oaks, government workers in San Bernardino or Virginia Beach, movie goers in Aurora, music lovers in Vegas.
And on. With no gun control in consideration. Until mass killings evoke not much more than a one-day story, a prayer or two, and not a whiff of reform. As the Parkland tragedy fades into the ordinary.