It happened again.
We knew it would; it was just a matter of time.
On Friday, a longtime city employee opened fire inside a municipal building in the city of Virginia Beach with a legal handgun, fatally injuring 12 people before police shot and killed him. Four others were wounded, including a police officer who was saved by his bullet-proof vest.
It was “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said.
“Nothing like this happens in Virginia Beach,” resident Cheryl Benn said.” By and large, it’s a pretty calm and peaceful place to live.”
We could say the same here.
No motive is known at this time. If the shooter had any distinguishing trait, it was that he seemed so normal.
After the shooting, while speaking to the press, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera spoke the name of the shooter, and then said he would never do so again.
We approve of that decision. News organizations have a responsibility to report facts — not to glorify anyone, nor to vilify anyone, but because they’re facts — but on this page, we will not use the killer’s name. Let it be forgotten, along with the names of the other mass shooters who succeeded in their missions of creating havoc and dealing death. If they sought fame, the least we can do is deny it.
Once again we have to note that this is a uniquely American problem. These types of mass shootings, in schools, in public buildings, in restaurants, movie theaters and nightclubs, rarely happen in other advanced countries.
Here, they occur again and again as our political leaders shrug their shoulders and offer “thoughts and prayers” and the public throws around theories that align with previously held political leanings. Lather, rinse, repeat.
May we, finally, do something different?
We need to study gun violence now more than ever, Dr. Gabriela Maradiaga Panayotti, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke Children’s Hospital, recently wrote in a Charlotte Observer guest column. Earlier this year she joined 300 pediatricians who marched on Capitol Hill in hopes of bringing attention to the issue.
“Many seem surprised when pediatricians talk about gun violence as a public health issue,” Panayotti wrote. “As pediatricians, we strive to promote the health and well-being of children. It is through our research and advocacy that lives have been saved...”
Members of her group met with Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, asking for $50 million in funding for gun violence prevention in the Senate appropriations bill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown interest in studying the problem for decades, but congressional leaders have steadily applied the brakes for what can only be political reasons — threats from the NRA.
Earlier this year, House Democrats allocated $50 million to study gun violence — $25 million to CDC and $25 million to the National Institutes of Health.
The Senate has yet to take up the cause.
That’s where the rest of us can take action — by putting pressure on our congressional leaders.
If a disease were killing people like this, we would research the hell out of it. CDC and NIH should be given every resource, every dollar necessary, to find an answer to this public health crisis.
We don’t know how many more victims there will be, but we know there will be more — especially if we refuse to take action.
And none of us are immune from it. Anywhere.