At around 2:08 p.m. local time, Milwaukee police responded to a report of gunfire at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in the Miller Valley neighborhood on the city’s west side. Here’s what we know so far:
Six people are dead, including the shooter. The incident marks the worst mass shooting in America this year, and at least the eleventh in Wisconsin since 2004. → Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s timeline of mass shootings in the state.
Authorities have begun the somber ritual of contacting victims’ families. The city’s police chief said at a press conference last night that the department won’t publicly identify the deceased for another 24 to 48 hours.
The gunman was a long-time employee who worked as an electrician. Officials said the shooter was a 51-year-old male. The Journal Sentinel reported that he used two handguns, one of which was equipped with a silencer. As we’ve reported before, active shooters strike workplaces more than any other location. According to one researcher, the reason boils down to a distinctly American cultural and mental “strain,” which drives gunmen to target places that represent the social systems that they feel have mistreated them.
Molson Coors, formerly MillerCoors, is a Milwaukee institution. The company employs roughly 1,500 people in the city. The facility where the shooting occurred has some 600 workers.
- “These are people we’ve worked with for years. They’re like family. We spend more time with them than we do at home.” — A machine operator at the brewery
- “Thank God, it’s not us.” — A worker at a childcare center down the block
- “It is a horrible, horrible day for the employees here and it is a rough day for anybody close to this situation.” — Mayor Tom Barrett
- “Our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were senselessly taken, all of the folks and workers at Molson Coors, and the Milwaukee community as we grapple with yet another act of gun violence that will have long-lasting consequences for this community and our state.” — Governor Tony Evers
Political context: Governor Evers has pushed — and failed — to tighten the state’s gun laws. In November, he called a special session on a number of stalled bills, including a red flag law and a measure to expand background checks. But state Republicans, who control both chambers, immediately gaveled the session closed and have ignored his agenda. From the Journal Sentinel: “Just hours” before the shooting, the state Senate’s Republican majority leader signaled his caucus’s continued opposition to gun reform measures.
Historical context: In a country that now has sub-categories of mass shootings — at schools, in churches, at bars — this wasn’t the first mass shooting at a beer company: On August 3, 2010, a recently fired employee at a beer distributor in Manchester, Connecticut, shot and killed eight of his co-workers and wounded two others before taking his own life.
Gun violence context: Despite the attention they garner, mass shootings account for fewer than 2 percent of annual gun deaths in the U.S. Over the last year, at least 194 people have been fatally shot in Wisconsin, 118 of them in Milwaukee, according to Gun Violence Archive.