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When a Mass Shooting of College Students is Not Breaking News

From The Chicago Tribune, May 1, 2019

Published in ChicagoNow, May 2, 2019

On April 30, a young man with a gun opened fire in a classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, killing two students and injuring four. This story was not breaking news on cable television, which continued to drone on about Barr’s expected testimony and other political news. Nor was it front page news. In fact, the story appeared as a small blurb on page sixteen of the May 1, 2019 Chicago Tribune under the heading “News Briefing,” along with a story about protecting Confederate statues in Charlottesville and another about the EPA reaffirming that Roundup weed killer does not give folks cancer.

I guess we have come to the point where we accept a mass shooting of students at school to be somewhat normal. That is a pretty pathetic place for our country to be. It seems the only mass killings that get front page coverage these days are hate crimes like the recent California Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting. A plain old college shooting doesn’t faze us anymore. Of course, there were no local shootings listed in the newspaper, although I’m sure there were several.

In fact, according to the Sun Times Daily Shooting Roundup, seven people were shot and three of them died in Chicago on April 29. A man died and a 16-year-old was wounded on the West Side. That same evening, a 31-year-old woman was killed, and later that night, 24-year-old man was killed, both on the South Side.

Perhaps the killing of two college students and the wounding of four others in an anthropology class by a random young man with no manifesto was not as interesting to readers as yet another article about Jussie Smollett. His handgun was purchased legally. Perhaps he had been a student at the college. Perhaps he is mentally ill. No one knows his motive yet. Perhaps he didn’t really have one and this was what law enforcement officials are calling “random.”

We know what to say. Thoughts and prayers. We’re Charlotte Strong. There will be flowers and candlelight vigils. The dead students will receive their college graduation diplomas. The first responders will be praised. People will say they didn’t know the shooter or he was quiet or he kept to himself. None of that changes the fact that Riley Howell, age 21, and Reed Parlier, age 19, are dead. Or that four shooting victims whose ages range from 19 to 23 are hospitalized.

There may be some calls for gun safety legislation, but we know what will happen. Nothing. I’m not sure what it will take to get our country to enact sensible gun safety laws. In New Zealand, less than one month after the Mosque attacks in Christchurch that killed 50 people, their parliament banned the sale of all “military-style” semi-automatics, assault rifles, and high capacity magazines. The ban was immediate to prevent people from stockpiling weapons and there will be a buyback program to remove now-banned weapons from the streets.

After 58 people were killed and 422 wounded at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, our Congress did… nothing. Over eighteen months later, I’m still waiting. In the interim, the mass shootings go on. Schools, places of worship, entertainment venues, or even front porches in many neighborhoods are not safe. Only in America is a college mass shooting routine news.


by Laurie Levy
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