I have never lost a loved one to gun violence. I neither presume nor pretend to know first hand the pain and grief caused by such a sudden, senseless taking of a life. But for the last 30 years I have spoken to many people who have. I've held hands with a mom weeping over the random shooting death of her only son. I've been invited into the home of a dad, still stunned that his 9 year old daughter was shot to death when a lone gunman opened fire at a shopping center in Phoenix targeting congresswoman Gabreille Giffords. His wife was so grief stricken she was going from room to room dusting furniture, as if in a trance. I have visited with a survivor of the Columbine school shooting. He was a promising young man whose home was converted to accommodate the wheelchair he will likely spend the rest of his life needing after a bullet irreparably severed his spine. I saw the anger still in his eyes over what was robbed from him in an instant. Isla Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Newton Connecticutt; Phoenix, Arizona; and now Rosebug, Oregon. As reporter, I have learned to compartmentalize, to inure myself to the raw pain and emotion of events around me, so I can tell a story without breaking down myself. It's a necessary defense mechanism. Still, it's impossible not to sympathize or even empathize with the victims and their families. No emotional barrier can completely shield you from the suffering. Nor should it.
We have become far too complacent as a nation to this epidemic of gun violence. It reminds me of our collective nonchalance toward the space shuttle missions prior to the Challenger disaster. Successful launches and landings had seemingly become so commonplace that we half expected to find stories of the missions in the Travel section. The explosion put the risk back on the front page and reminded us not to take such wonders for granted. Likewise, mass shootings, specifically school shootings, have become so common that we are just as likely to ask, "Where this time?" as we are to be stunned by the unthinkable act of violence. That needs to stop.
This is not a rant against gun ownership. I recently purchased my first gun. It's a .22 caliber target rifle (the smallest caliber available) resembling a military firearm. It was a present for our son's 18th birthday. We have gone shooting several times and he and I have gained a respect for the power and danger of using a gun and the responsibility attached to owning a weapon. The gun is stored, locked, in a locked case. The magazines and ammunition are kept safely in another part of the house, also locked. I am not seeking an abridgment of anyone's Second Amendment rights. But clearly, something is wrong with us as a nation to observe and endure an increasingly routine series of tragedies without any meaningful change in our attitudes or legislation.
I lamented traveling to Roseburg, Oregon, wondering how many more shootings I would cover. How many more would we see and read about in the days to come? 45 school shootings have been reported this year alone in the United States. Think about that. It's an average of one a week, differing in number of causalities and location but little else.
I decided after the Denver theater shootings to refrain, whenever possible, from mentioning the shooter by name. I choose to deny him or anyone like him the notoriety they clearly crave either in life or posthumously. It doesn't change what they did but it removes the sick celebrity aspect which appears to be linked to the mad plans often associated with the so called manifestos they often leave behind or their ominous posts on social media. They don't deserve to be remembered by name. Their actions are heinous enough to never forget. Let's honor those lost or injured instead. The victims and heroes and their families should be mentioned and remembered and should serve as a reminder of the very real, lasting human cost of these shootings. I have never lost a loved one to gun violence but perhaps it's time all of us start acting as if we had. Maybe then we'd do something about it.