Can Anything Be Done to Stem the Rising Tide of Gun Violence?
It is alarming how so many senseless murders have occurred in the U.S. just in 2022. The country has returned to its earlier days when the idea of a wild west ruled the day. The Wild West was so named for the lawlessness of the untamed territories west of the Mississippi River - the western U.S. during its frontier period from 1865-1895.
Fast forward more than 125 years and we’re back where we started, albeit in a different form. Back then the form of murder was often saloon brawls and gunfights, family squabbles or just the hatred of others. Sound familiar? Just insert schools, clubs, stores, mass crowd events, and in the workplace and we are experiencing it once again. The difference now is it’s countrywide and a lot of citizens are too scared to go out or engage in events that might make them targets of the crazies.
The New York Times recently published a list of mass shootings in 2022 alone. It is staggering how mental illness has affected society with respect to mass killings. There are various reasons as discussed next.
Underlying Causes of Breakdown in Society
The truth is the underlining cause is that we have lost our moral compass as a society. Civility is passé. Respect for others has fallen by the waist side. Compassion and empathy are nowhere to be found. Narcissistic behavior has taken over. All too many people only think of themselves and blame others for their problems in life.
I believe that schools are failing to do their jobs. However, they do need better funding to develop programs and make things better and safer for all citizens. Schools have failed to adequately address the mental health problems and no longer teach youngsters right from wrong. Mental health awareness should be a required subject and a dialogue should begin between teachers and students that addresses the root causes of the problem. Parents should be involved as well.
Another issue is there are few if any role models in society. Everywhere we look bad behavior follows whether on social media, bullying, fraudulent activities, compromised politicians, incompetent government officials, scammers in business and finance, people in the entertainment and sports industries, and from those in everyday life.
Some may call me a cynic, and they are right. Lily Tomlin once said: “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”
This year is likely to be the second-highest year for mass shootings in the U.S. on record, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun violence incidents across the country.
The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.
There have been at least 608 mass shootings through November 24 this year. That’s just short of the 638 mass shootings in the country at this point last year – the worst year on record since the group began tracking them in 2014. There was a total of 690 mass shootings in 2021.
Murderers Row: November 13-27
It is inconceivable that the U.S. has experienced so many mass shootings in just a few days last month. Several murders have occurred raising fears that if the trend continues, the U.S. may see thousands of innocent children and adults shot or killed each year starting in 2023, with no end in sight. A summary of these events follows.
On November 27, a shooter on the campus of Florida A&M University shot and killed one person and wounded four others. The shooter has not been captured as yet.
A shooting at a shopping center in Temple Hills, MD on November 23 left four people — including three teenagers — injured. As a result of the shooting three teen males and one woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries. There are no suspects right now.
There are literally dozens of such incidents that have occurred in November 2022 alone, where no one died of their injuries, but the act of violence creates fear in the minds of the public whether it is safe to go out shopping, or clubbing, being in large crowds, or just being in school.
On November 22, a shooting occurred at a Walmart in Chesapeake, VA where six Walmart workers were murdered and four left injured. The Walmart supervisor responsible for the killings left behind a "death note" on his phone that apologized for what he was about to do while simultaneously blaming others for mocking him. So here we have a disgruntled employee taking out his frustrations on coworkers who may not have had anything to do with his perceived bad treatment. Blaming others is a common rationalization for a mass murder.
Another incident occurred on November 21 where Bradley Rein plowed his 2019 Toyota 4Runner through the glass storefront of an Apple store at the Derby Street Shops in Hingham, MA. One person died and 19 others were injured.
On November 19, Anderson Lee Aldrich, a 22-year-old shooter, entered a LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs killing at least five people and injuring 25 others, before patrons confronted and stopped him.
A class field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. turned tragic on November 14 when Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., who was on the bus with football players, opened fire after it returned to campus at the University of Virginia. Three football players were killed and two other students were injured in the shooting. Jones was facing school disciplinary action after the University of Virginia officials learned he failed to disclose his conviction last year on a misdemeanor concealed weapons charge, according to a school spokesperson.
On November 13, four University of Idaho students were found dead in the house they lived in. Authorities are still looking for the shooter(s). Investigators have now processed more than 1,000 tips in the aftermath of the gruesome stabbing deaths of the four students, but they still do not have a suspect in the killings.
Other killings in 2022
Here is a sampling of other killings earlier this year.
On July 4, seven people were killed and more than 30 injured after a gunman opened fire from a rooftop above the crowd attending the Fourth of July celebration in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago.
On June 1 at St. Francis Hospital, Tulsa, OK, a suspect targeting an orthopedic surgeon who recently performed back surgery on him killed four people, including the doctor before dying from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. In a letter recovered at the scene, the suspect blamed the doctor for "ongoing pain following the surgery," police said. Multiple people were also injured in the shooting.
On May 24, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, 19 children and two teachers were killed after a gunman opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Also, 17 people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old shooter, was killed by law enforcement 77 minutes after entering the school, authorities said. The tragedy has been intensely criticized over the failures that resulted in the delayed law enforcement response.
A year before the Uvalde school massacre, the shooter had already earned the nickname “school shooter” — a running joke among those he played online games with. He had also started wearing all black and making over-the-top threats, especially toward women, who he terrorized with graphic descriptions of violence and rape. These signs seemingly were ignored highlighting the need to consider the mantra, “see something, say something,” especially when a person does not seem to be able to control their emotions.
On May 14, ten black people were killed and in what authorities said was a Racially motivated attack at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo. Payton Gendron Payton Gendron, the 19-year-old suspect, faces state and federal hate crime charges.
Killings in 2021
There were horrific murders in 2021 as well including the following.
On April 14, 2021, Brandon Hole, 19, opened fire outside a FedEx warehouse facility in Indianapolis before moving inside the facility, killing eight people and injuring several others. Hole is believed to have shot himself and was among the nine dead. FedEx officials confirmed that Hole was an employee at the facility and that he was last employed in 2020.
On April 7 in rural South Carolina, former NFL player Phillip Adams shot six people. In this case, Adams’ brain is now being examined for possible degenerative disease that has been shown to cause violent mood swings and other cognitive disorders in some athletes and members of the military because of repeated head trauma. Boston University neuropathologists said Adams had CTE — or chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a degenerative brain disease found in many former football players.
On April 3, an event billed as a family-fun trail ride and outdoor concert in southern Dallas turned deadly, when one person fired into the air and a second person fired in the crowd's direction. A 26-year-old man was killed and 16 others, including three juveniles, were injured by gunfire.
Also on April 3, six people were killed and 12 wounded after gunfire erupted in downtown Sacramento in a gunfight between multiple gang rivals. The victims killed ranged in age from 21 to 57. Three alleged gang members were charged with multiple counts of murder stemming from the mass shooting.
On March 31, a shooter killed four people and critically wounded a fifth at a Southern California office building.
On March 22, a shooter at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, killed ten people, including a police officer who was the first to respond to the scene.
On March 19, 26 people were wounded, including five children ranging in age from 19 months to 11 years old, and a 23-year-old man killed after gunfire "swept across a crowd" while attending a car show in rural Arkansas.
On March 16, eight people were killed by a shooter at three Atlanta-area massage businesses in attacks targeting Asian Americans.
Dealing with Gun Violence
The massacre in Uvalde, Texas was a grim reminder that in the U.S., where civilians own nearly 400 million firearms, children are more likely to die from gun violence than in any other high-income country. The killing of 19 fourth-graders and two adults at Robb Elementary School spurred many to ask why the U.S. has failed to make any significant changes to its gun laws following the horrendous mass shootings that now happen with regularity.
Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: All are names locked into the nation's memory for the terrible violence that took the lives of students there.
Are there any fixes for the gun violence problems we face? It is hard to say. Nevertheless, Congress must legislate stricter gun laws sooner rather than later. Even if tightening these laws does no good, we must try. We have to say that we have taken steps to halt gun violence. No one should die from gunshots in the U.S. It leaves families devastated and communities torn apart.
Can We Fix the Problem?
We can put the blame on different groups for the out-of-hand gun violence in America. Beyond greater gun control laws, parents should discuss these issues with their kids at the earliest possible age. Schools need to address them as well. Mandatory mental health education in our schools is a must commencing in the first grade and continuing through high school. These teachings should be backed up by wellness checks when necessary. What is the purpose of an education if not to educate citizens about the human cost of gun violence?
America is a violent country because we no longer follow core ethical standards that have guided our actions for so long. Right and wrong has become a question of how you define it rather than through long-standing ethical values such as respect for others, basic kindness, compassion towards others, civility, and personal responsibility. We need to recommit to these values that have historically made us the envy of the world.
I blame our political leaders for much of the gun violence problem. Nothing ever gets done to better control the gun culture in our country. A tragic event occurs, and the debate begins about what should be done to stem the rising tide of violence, and then it fizzles out. Another shooting occurs and we’re right back where we started.
Politicians are self-serving and oblivious to their own ethical responsibilities to serve as positive role models in society. Politicians vote with their party, not with their heart. They must toe the party line regardless of their personal beliefs and what is in the best interests of the country. Just look at how voting has occurred in the U.S. Senate lately with a 50:50 split. Not surprising, there are 50 Democrats right now and 50 Republicans, all of whom typically vote the party line and not based on what is in the public interest.
Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on December 6, 2022. You can sign up for Steve’s newsletter and learn more about his activities on his website (https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/) and by following him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.