Constable: Mass shootings have gone from 'not here' to 'anywhere'

  • This photograph capturing overwhelming grief after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is similar to every other photo taken in the wake of a mass shooting. Our photo library has far too many.

    This photograph capturing overwhelming grief after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is similar to every other photo taken in the wake of a mass shooting. Our photo library has far too many. Associated Press

  • Places of worship have become targets in the United States. This small-town church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was home to a 2017 mass shooting that killed 26 people and wounded another 20.

    Places of worship have become targets in the United States. This small-town church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was home to a 2017 mass shooting that killed 26 people and wounded another 20. Associated Press

  • Honoring the victims of school shootings is a common occurrence in the United States. This scene shows a woman leaving a token after five students were murdered in the 2008 mass shooting at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

      Honoring the victims of school shootings is a common occurrence in the United States. This scene shows a woman leaving a token after five students were murdered in the 2008 mass shooting at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/22/2019 9:54 AM

September is the month when Congress and the White House will take on the problem of mass shootings. August simply provided some motivation.

Celebrating a loved one's birthday when news of the Texas mass shooting broke, I realized that this birthday date would be forever linked to tragedy. But the mass murder of 22 people shot dead that day at a Walmart in El Paso ranks only seventh on the list of deadliest mass shootings in the United States. While Aug. 3 will be a date that lives in infamy for people directly affected by that tragedy, it's just another day in a long list for a general populace that has grown numb to mass shootings. Every birthday, anniversary and day of celebration shares the date with a mass shooting, hate crime and day of sorrow. I share my birthday with a couple of school shootings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Counting only mass shootings in which three or more people (not including the suspect) are killed, the FBI reports 17 mass killings with shooters killing 102 people so far this year. That doesn't include the four college students wounded when a gunman opened fire into a crowd of 200 people outside a library near Clark Atlanta University as I write this.

One of the most infamous school shootings killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado. That tragedy isn't even in our Top 10 List of Deadliest Shootings. We've had nine deadlier shootings since that 1999 shooting, and even more sad days.

On May 20, 1988, I was a month into my columnist career when I spent most of the day outside the Hubbard Woods Elementary School in bucolic Winnetka, pondering what to write about a school shooting that killed one much beloved 8-year-old second-grader named Nicholas Corwin, left two other boys and two girls wounded, and could have been even worse.

"This shouldn't happen. Not here. Not anywhere," I wrote, using the first thought that jumped into my head.

I was the same age as Nicholas Corwin when I heard about the University of Texas tower shooting that killed 15 people and wounded another 31 during a 96-minute rampage.

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The Texas tower shooting was the worst on a college campus until the Virginia Tech shooting April 16, 2007, which killed 32 students and faculty members and wounded another 17 people. We have enough mass shootings at schools to rank them. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which occurred Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 little boys and girls and six adult staff members, is our second-deadliest school shooting.

I have written about some of the victims of the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting at Northern Illinois University that snuffed out the promising lives of students Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter and wounded another 15. In Chicago, we are familiar with the St. Valentine's Day massacre that killed seven in 1929. But the most deadly Valentine's Day shooting came on Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman killed 17 students and staff, and wounded another 17, at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida.

If you do an online search for "mass shooting" on a particular day of the year, you often find multiple entries. Same with location. Wanting to double-check details surrounding the horrific mass shooting on Feb. 15 of this year in Aurora that killed Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner, and wounded six police officers, I searched for "Aurora mass shooting." The first entry that pops up is for the July 20, 2012, shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 people dead, 58 wounded and another dozen who were injured while trying to flee.

Mass shootings in the United States can happen on any night or day of the year, in cities, suburbs or small rural towns. While home to run-of-the-mill gun deaths, Rhode Island and New Hampshire are our only states without a mass shooting in the past 50 years, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Recent mass shootings have changed the way we approach outings at music concerts, nightclubs, schools, places of worship, restaurants, stores, places of work, military bases, newspaper offices, festivals, municipal buildings and movie theaters.

My 1988 lament that, "This shouldn't happen. Not here. Not anywhere," seems woefully naive in a nation where, "This does happen. Anytime. Anywhere." Is it just as naive to hope politicians will do something about mass shootings in September?

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