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Opinion: Our tragic new normal

Bouquets of flowers are left near Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At least five people were killed and 18 wounded in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in the US city of Colorado Springs, police said on November 20, 2022.
JASON CONNOLLY
/
AFP via Getty Images
Bouquets of flowers are left near Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At least five people were killed and 18 wounded in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in the US city of Colorado Springs, police said on November 20, 2022.

There is a question that hangs over this holiday weekend of thanks. Have mass shootings become the American way of life?

There is a mass shooting every few days. Not seems: is.

Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr, and D'Sean Perry, University of Virginia college football players, were shot to death on Nov. 13 in a parking garage in Charlottesville, after a team trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former member of the team is in custody, charged with murder.

Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance, Derrick Rump, Ashley Green Paugh were shot to death at Club Q, an LGTBQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, just six days later, Nov. 19. A suspect is in custody, facing five counts of murder and five for hate-crimes.

And just three days after the Colorado shootings, Brian Pendleton, Kellie Pyle, Randall Blevins, Tyneka Johnson, Lorenzo Gamble, and a 16-year-old who has not been named were shot to death in a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. The alleged shooter turned a gun on himself and also died.

Ten days, three mass shootings. And who would be astonished if, as soon as I say these words, somewhere, another mass shooting may strike?

The Gun Violence Archive reports more than 600 mass shootings, in which four or more people are shot, have occurred so far this year. That is more than 12 mass shootings a week. They are crimes and outrages. But we can no longer call them surprises.

In 2020, the United States had a homicide rate of 7 per 100,000 people killed. Canada's rate, by contrast, was 2 per 100,000. Australia's was 1.

We report these statistics many times a year. But I wonder if they haven't become a kind of white noise we cease to hear. Instead, let me ask some questions:

How many parents flinch just to see a message from their children's school and worry if it's a shooting? How many queer, bi, or trans people, or those who are Black, Jewish, Hispanic or Asian American might fear just to meet up with friends? How many elderly people may be afraid to leave their homes? How many faithful in church, mosque, and synagogues might wonder about strangers who appear in their houses of worship? And how many parents worry that if our teenagers want to see cheery holiday decorations with their friends, a gaggle of them laughing might suddenly be targets of another horrifying attack?

What do we lose when we live with such fears?

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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