A week or so ago, a screening of the comedy film No Hard Feelings was going to be shown at a theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Amongst the moviegoers were two couples, a 52-year-old man and his wife and a 19-year-old and his girlfriend. Both couples had reserved seats and upon arrival, the 19-year-old and his girlfriend found the other couple sitting in one of their seats. There was an argument about it and the 19-year-old confronted the couple and threw a box of popcorn at them. Once that happened, the 52-year-old man exploded and got very angry, grabbing the 19-year-old and slamming him up against the wall. Soon after, the 19-year-old pulled out a gun and shot and killed the 52-year-old man. The movie patrons fled and the 19-year-old was caught hiding in the bushes outside the movie theater exit. He has been charged with murder and he’ll probably spend the rest of his life in jail. The wife of that 52-year-old man is now a widow. This is what the value of human life has sunken to in this country. A murder over a reserved seat in a movie theater. Two couples went to watch a comedy film and now a person is dead, his wife now a widow. One cannot begin to imagine the trauma and despair she must be feeling. What does this say about our respect for human life and our viability as a society? What does this say about our moral and spiritual health?
This shooting is not an isolated instance. There were 22 mass shootings over the Fourth of July weekend. One of them occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The perpetrator was a 40-year-old man living in a house with seven other people. He wore a bulletproof vest inside the house and constantly carried an assault weapon. None of the other residents said anything about this; they were probably too scared to do anything and were afraid that if they spoke out, he might shoot them, which might’ve been a very justified fear considering what he did over the Fourth of July weekend. This man wasn’t even supposed to have a gun. He had several run ins with the law and had been convicted of several offenses, one of them being a gun offense, which meant he wasn’t legally allowed to own a gun. However, he had one and on the Fourth of July weekend, he went outside of his house and killed five people walking up and down the streets, shooting them at random. One of the dead was a 15-year-old boy. Another was a 20-year-old man who had just walked out the door to get something to eat, when he was shot and killed on his doorstep in front of his mother and girlfriend. Three other people were killed and two were wounded. This incident was just one of 22 mass shootings that took place over the Fourth of July weekend, a weekend which is supposed to be a celebration of our country’s independence and freedom. There were shootings at block parties and in the streets, and there were confrontations that ended in mass shootings. This is what we have to live with.
I think we can solve this problem but we’re going to have to make some major social changes in order for that to happen. We need a publicity campaign against violence and hate and we need a nationwide coordinated effort speaking out against mass shootings and killings and calling for more respect for human life. We also need clinics staffed by trained professionals who understand violence and mental illness. We do need to ban assault weapons, but I’m not sure how much good that will do since people can still acquire guns even if they’re banned. The 40-year-old man who carried out that shooting in Philadelphia wasn’t legally allowed to own a gun, but he was still able to get one. If one of his seven housemates had spoken up and called the police to tell them that this guy was dangerous and walking around with a bulletproof vest and an assault weapon, maybe the shooting he carried out would’ve been avoided. There needs to be a greater awareness about the dangers of mental illness and potential for violence when people start acting like that. We need a coordinated effort to teach people about the value of human life and how to settle confrontation peacefully. We also need violence prevention specialists out there, especially at block parties since that’s where a lot of these shootings occur. There are people all over the place at big block parties and when two people get into a confrontation and start arguing, it can end in gun violence where people get killed and wounded. We need some kind of program to stop things like that from happening. How can we live in a country where 22 mass shootings occurred on one holiday weekend that left 20 people dead and 126 wounded? What does that say about our country? How would you feel if your family member or loved one got caught up in something like that? Even if they weren’t one of the dead or wounded, imagine what it’s like being caught up a shooting scene. The trauma it leaves on communities is unimaginable. Even if you’re not hurt, you’re still there to witness it, to hear it, to see people lying dead on the street. What does that do to your sense of safety? The trauma this can inflict on people is spreading throughout our society. Every time something like this happens, it increases the level of trauma nationwide. People who have been previous victims of gun violence still remember what happened to them and are trying to move past it, but it’s hard. We need a nationwide effort of trained professionals to help people deal with this type of trauma because this affects you for life, even if you’re not killed or wounded. You have to live with those memories for the end of your days. The more shootings that happen, the more our nation is going to suffer.