mass violence

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    In Thousand Oaks, CA, late Wednesday night, 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in a country western dance hall called the Borderline Bar & Grill. The 12 fatalities included Sgt. Ron Helus, an officer who was shot when approaching the scene, and the gunman. The gunman, dressed all in black, walked into the Borderline and opened fire. The Ventura County sheriff’s department said 22 others are known to have been injured in addition to the 12 fatalities.

    The gunman was identified as Ian David Long, the New York Timesreports. Long is a 28-year-old from Newbury Park, CA who had served in the Marine Corps. When confronted by authorities, Long did not run, but took his own life in the bar.

    The bar was frequented by college students and allowed people under 21 to enter, so the venue was frequently attended to by cops and firefighters, especially on Wednesday nights–a weekly college night.

    The deputies had interacted with Long a number times in the past few years. In April, there was a reported disturbance in his home. Due to Long's history as a marine, the reported disturbance prompted the investigation of a health care specialist to talk to long about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, but it was found that Long was not at risk for harming himself or others and therefore could not be involuntarily hospitalized.

    The gun Long used was legal and he was reported by a witness to have exercised it with precision. “He knew what he was doing,” Teyler Whittler, a witness, told the New York Times. “He had perfect form.”

    The motive of Long’s attack is so far unknown, but it echoes melancholic memories of other attacks we have seen the last few years, sparking further discussion around issues of gun control.

    Because of the widely normalized use of guns, the FBI previously defined apublic mass shootingas a single attack in a public place which four or more victims are killed. In 2013, Barack Obama lowered the definitive number to 3.

    Mother Jones has been documenting gun violence statistics and public mass shootings, according to the FBI’s definition, since 1982. According to the Mother Jones’ database regarding public mass shootings, there have been 107 mass shootings in the United States since 1982. Since 2010, there have 55 recorded mass shootings. What that means is 50% of public mass shootings in the last 36 years, have occurred in the 6 years alone. Between 2016 to the present, there have been 29 public mass shootings – that’s over 25% of the recorded shootings over the last 36 years. In 2018 alone, there have been 12 mass shootings, and the year is not over.

    According to the Mother Jones data, most of the shooters between 1982 and 2012 obtained their weapons legally. Further statistics have yet to be analyzed in recent years.

    What is certain is that the list of citizens affected by such violent phenomenon continues to grow at an accelerated rate never seen before in history. Gun violence in the 21st century is a signature point of contention for Americans. But at this point, it should be obvious that we can’t afford to continue to ignore it.

    You can take action by learning about gun control from organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety.

    Top image: March For Our Lives protest by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr Creative Commons

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    Last weekend, gunman Robert Bowers opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue. He killed 11 Jewish people, making Sunday’s attack the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in U.S. history, reports CNN. As is typically the case with instances of gun violence, the shooting could have been prevented: CNN noted that Bowers had 21 registered guns and a long history of using anti-Semitic slurs, threats, and language online. Once police officers found him, Bowers announced, "I just want to kill Jews." 

    Bowers was an active member on Gab, a "free speech" alternative to Facebook and Twitter that amassed a large following among the alt-right. Just four hours before his attack, Bowers wrote, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered…screw your optics, I’m going in” on his page on the site, according to The New York Times. The social media platform has since been temporarily taken down, as the site's web hosting and domain providers are pulling Gab's hosting service and domain names, respectively.

    Though this was the most violent attack on American Jews to date, it follows a disturbing and unsurprising pattern of anti-Semitism that has gained traction since Trump took office. In February, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report that stated anti-Semitic incidents increased by almost 60% between 2016 and 2017, the highest one-year surge on record since ADL started collecting data in the 1970s. These crimes ranged from vandalism to verbal assault to bomb threats to physical attacks.

    “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society,” said ADL National Director Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “In reflecting on this time and understanding it better with this new data, we feel even more committed to our century-old mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

    On his Gab profile, Bowers denounced Judaism and supported the conspiracy theory of “white genocide”—an anti-Semitic belief that Jews are trying to destroy the “white race” in countries like the U.S. “This is what the torch-bearing white supremacists who marched on the campus of the University of Virginia meant when they chanted ‘Jews will not replace us,’” wrote Alex Amend for the Southern Poverty Law Center

    Deborah E. Lipstadt, an Emory University professor of Holocaust history, told The New York Times that anti-Semitism in America lies dormant, but never really goes away. “Now I think it’s worse than it’s ever been,” Lipstadt said, adding that figures like Trump and Republicans in Congress are pushing and supporting unfounded conspiracy theories that “resonate with anti-Semites.”

    Bowers’ anti-Semitism is heavily rooted in xenophobia, as his Gab profile showed many hateful references to HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the world’s oldest refugee resettlement organization. HIAS is a Jewish group that offers housing, advocacy, and legal help to vulnerable refugees in the U.S. While we mourn, there are also many tangible ways to take action, including getting involved with HIAS or making a donation in the name of those who died Sunday at the Tree of Life synagogue. 

    Right now, though, also make sure to reach out to your Jewish friends. Ask how they’re doing, and make sure they know that your friendship is a safe space for grieving, pain, and anger. People like Trump might say anti-Semitism is something they can't find "possible in this day and age," but for many American Jews, what happened on Sunday realized a series of fears and feeling of unsafety that have always existed and continued to worsen throughout Trump's time as President. Trump also, of course, added that the massacre had "little to do" with a need for stricter gun laws—a reminder to make sure you’re ready to vote November 6, if you haven’t already, and show your support for candidates who aren’t going to tolerate hate speech, hate crimes, and gun violence.

    Top photo via Tree of Life Synagogue

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