Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Mourners gather at a vigil following the Dayton mass shooting on Sunday, August 4. [AP Photo/John Minchillo]

Daily Bulletin: Trying to Make Sense of the Unimaginable

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Even for a public accustomed to daily headlines about the nation’s gun violence crisis, the events of this weekend — two mass shootings that left a total of 29 people dead and 53 wounded — will hang heavy on the hearts of many.

In El Paso, Texas, on Saturday morning, a gunman killed 20 people and wounded 26 others at a Walmart just a few miles from the Mexican border. In the shooter’s alleged online rant, he sought to take action against what he described as a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Less than 24 hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, a shooter killed nine people and injured 27 others in a popular downtown entertainment district. The shooter’s sister was one of the fatalities.

The dual massacres follow last weekend’s pair of mass shootings in Northern California and Brooklyn. On their own, each was a gut punch; together, in such close succession, they are head-spinning. As we have sought answers to the questions these attacks raise, we have gathered a list of articles and commentary that provide valuable information and context. We hope it helps you process the ghastly events that have shaken us all. —Team Trace

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WHAT WE’RE READING

  • This New York Times report from 2017 showing that an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion: The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is the nation’s astronomical number of guns.
  • This reminder in The Washington Post from a Department of Homeland Security analyst that the threat of far-right extremist violence was identified a decade ago — and ignored.
  • This New York Times column by Jamelle Bouie, written just after the New Zealand mosque shooting, made the connection between shootings like these, Trump’s rhetoric, white supremacy, and racial violence.
  • This authoritative assessment of 8chan’s role in fueling mass shootings from Bellingcat. Journalist Robert Evans explores the “high scores” sought by some users of the message board, where white nationalist terror has been gamified by racist white men seeking identity and acclaim.
  • In this medical journal op-ed from September 2018, longtime gun violence researcher Garen Wintemute outlined two policies that could help curb mass shootings: truly comprehensive background checks and extreme risk protection orders. (We are reporting on solutions to more common forms of gun fatalities — suicide and urban homicide – in our “How We Fix This” series.)
  • This forceful piece by New Yorker editor Michael Luo that knocks Democrats’ failure to propose bolder plans for significantly reducing shootings.
  • This Vox debunking of the “good guy with a gun” myth. It was written after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, but its argument gained another data point in Dayton, where police say they neutralized the gunman in 30 seconds — but could not stop him from shooting dozens of people first.
  • This theory in The Atlantic that “a spate of mass shootings might behave like ‘a slow-motion … riot,’ such that each murderous event normalizes, or encourages, new participants to join the movement.”
  • This Houston Chronicle editorial by a woman expressing the raw emotions of grieving and having to explain another shooting to her child after the El Paso shooting: “We should cry. We should hold our children and our loved ones closer. We should grieve for the victims and their families. Then we should scream in anger and rage.”
  • This tweet from youth anti-violence activists GoodKids MadCity, who noted that there were two other multiple victim shootings overnight on Saturday, both of them in Chicago, where a total of 12 people were struck, one fatally, in unrelated incidents. Those shootings received little national attention “because the victims are Black & Brown… Let’s talk about all forms of gun violence & all forms of solutions.” All told, gun violence in the city since Friday evening claimed at least four lives and wounded 43 other people.

NEW FROM THE TRACE

Mass shootings are destroying our sense of public space. Cornerstones of communal life in a country that celebrates the freedom to gather have been repeatedly transformed by gunmen into scenes of unrelenting cruelty and primal fear. Yale sociologist Vida Bajc spoke with Alex Yablon about the aftershocks. “We will have fewer and fewer ways for people to relate to one another in public space. It’s tragic.”

The El Paso shooter coveted the ‘most lethal’ rifle ammunition on the market. In a four-page screed suspected to have been posted by the El Paso gunman, the author lamented that his rifle, an AK-47 variant, couldn’t match the lethality of an AR-15. So, to boost his weapon’s killing capacity, he sought out 8M3 ammunition, a hollow-point rifle round known for its ability to create catastrophic wounds. Police are yet to address whether or not the gunman successfully acquired and used 8M3 ammunition in the shooting. But if he did, it could have had grave consequences for victims. Alain Stephens has the story on the company that brought the 8M3 back to the American market.