Those voices are discussing mass shootings, the all-American events that have replaced Major League Baseball as the pastime that touches families of all ages.
As the country recovers from yet another sequence of gun-enabled murders, many across the nation find themselves asking the same question: could we please work on a vaccine for this?
In the middle of the afternoon on an average American Monday, the lives of ten people were brought to an abrupt and violent end for having made the fatal mistake of needing groceries.
The gunman walked into a Kroger subsidiary and targeted shoppers at random with an AR-15 style weapon, the AR standing for Armalite, the name of a firearms manufacturer, and the 15 standing for the typical number of people slaughtered once a maniac easily gets his hands on one.
Among the deceased was a local police officer, and despite the National Rifle Association’s assertion that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, the good guy with a bad gun was no match for the bad guy with a good gun.
In the middle of the afternoon on average American Tuesday, the lives of eight people were brought to an abrupt and violent end for having made the fatal mistake of wanting others to feel comfortable.
The gunman walked into a series of massage parlors and targeted six Asian women who he claimed had been “providing an outlet for his addiction to sex,” ensuring that they — as well as another employee, a couple on a date, and a man who was simply walking by the building — would be held accountable for the actions of a disturbed religious fanatic.
The act was seen as yet another instance of anti-Asian violence since the onset of the pandemic, a symptom in a country whose last leader chose to emulate not the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but of Andrew “Dice” Clay, by deriding a generation-defining public health crisis as the “kung flu” in the kind of lazy, casual racism that wouldn’t even pass the muster in the writers’ room of one of those 1940s cartoons that gets a content warning slapped before the titles when it shows up for nobody to watch on Disney Plus.
And in the middle of an average American Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the lives of twenty-eight people were forever changed, including two of whom were brought to an abrupt and violent end, for having made the fatal mistake of either standing at an intersection, sitting in a motel room, visiting a club, or attending a party.
Spanning California, Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, mass shootings reach more states coast-to-coast in a short amount of time than an “American Idol” talent search — and produces a lot more hits that are far more lethal.
Just last week, I joked that the country’s just about ready to get back to normal, which means preparing for active shooters. The punchline, of course, being that we’d do anything to actually prepare for such an eventuality.
At least with the pandemic, we were able to come together for a few months and pretend that we cared about our neighbors, banging on pots and pans in the evening before settling in for another round of Call of Duty.
But after the gunpowder settled in another series of public spaces, and the cherry blossoms shed their springtime shell casings, we were treated to yet another predictable chorus of resignations — not those of shameful congresspeople who value carbon steel over constituents, but shrugs and sighs of “that’s just the way it is,” a crooked picture hanging on the wall that we can’t even muster up the courage to straighten.
Maybe this will get us closer to universal background checks and waiting periods — the massage parlor shooter purchased his gun the very same day that he killed eight people, while I can’t even order my contact lenses without two day’s worth of emails.
And maybe we’ll get closer to an assault weapons ban, meaning the next time a madman wants to open fire on a crowd, they’ll actually have to lift a finger.
But none of those things solves the fact that this country is unwilling to give up its addiction to guns. Considering there are approximately 12 firearms for every 10 U.S. citizens, it’s no wonder their rights are disproportionally reflected in Congress.
Oh yeah, I forgot, you like to go hunting. We can’t make 7-11 any safer because once every three years you like to get drunk with your buddies in some shack in the woods. Or you need it for self protection, because a knife’s never killed anyone before. Or you just want one because it’s your god given right, and who are we to bang on your adjacent wall at 3 in the morning to ask you to turn down your music because other people live in the building?
A year ago, we hailed people who work in grocery stores as “essential workers,” absolutely necessary people carrying out extremely important tasks for the good of society.
And if keeping people safe in public meant learning how to live with the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask, I suppose we’ll quickly acclimate to the Walmart greeter who waves hello under a bulletproof vest.