The day began as a joyous one. My family had gathered to wish my parents a happy 50th anniversary. But the mood turned somber pretty quickly as news flashed about the tragic shooting in El Paso, Texas, where I was raised and where my brother and his family live. Much of the day was spent checking in to see if family and friends were killed.
Later that night, the scene was repeated in Dayton, Ohio. And a pair of political science graduates who became successful high school football coaches lost a star player to a shooting. I’ve had a colleague whose son died at Virginia Tech. One of my friends teaches at Gavilan College in California, where the Gilroy Garlic Festival was located. An El Paso resident posted she never thought this would ever happen to her in her town. Nobody can say that now.
I’d like to be able to tell you something will be done, that these children and adults who were gunned down did not die in vain. I wish I could say good Christians wouldn’t let this happen or both political parties could find some common ground that would allow responsible gun ownership with meaningful reforms or writing this column would even change a single mind on the subject.
Politicians were quick to call for thoughts and prayers to the victims of each of the several shootings that occurred over the weekend.
But then I learned something shocking last month: shooters offer thoughts and prayers too.
In 1998, at Jonesboro, Arkansas, two students used a fire alarm drill to shoot and kill four female students and a teacher, wounding a dozen more. One of shooters died in a car crash last month. The other was paroled in 2005. His note at trial stated, “Hi. My name is Mitchell. My thoughts and prayers are with those people who were killed, or shot, and their families. I am really sad inside about everything. My thoughts and prayers are with those kids that I go to school with.”
Maybe we should offer a little more than the killers promise.
We are prepared to declare Antifa a terrorist group. Although I don’t support that group’s agenda or tactics, I’m beginning to suspect these white supremacists or Incel advocates who gun down innocent bystanders, admire others who do so and seek to spread the word the way ISIS does through decentralized networks are more of a priority as the body count rises exponentially from their actions.
The El Paso shooter’s manifesto, if it is accurate, calls for targeting “low-hanging fruit,” pushes for more attacks and reserves special rage for “racial mixing” with “inferior races” in a way that would make Adolf Hitler and the Nazis proud.
He’s referring to my brother who lives in El Paso, my brother’s wife and her family, as well as my young niece, all of whom he would have had no reservations about gunning down had they chosen to shop at Cielo Vista Mall that day instead of joining our family for the reunion. And the shooter is seeking others to join him.
Columns such as this may one day cost me my writing and teaching career but I can’t stay silent. Some things are just too important to remain quiet about.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at email@example.com. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.