Mass Gun Violence in America This Week Was Bigger Than a Shooting at a TI Show

The incident that killed one and injured three (including the shooter) won national attention thanks to the power of celebrity.
May 27, 2016, 7:30pm
Cops outside the Irving Plaza venue in Manhattan following a shooting on May 25 in New York, New York. (Xinhua/David Torres via Getty Images)

Over the past seven days, America witnessed four mass shootings that left one dead and 16 injured. The attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far this year to 111 dead and 400 injured. Meanwhile, Europe suffered one mass shooting that left two dead and 11 injured, bringing the continent's body count in such attacks up to 20 dead and 66 injured.

The week's mass shootings in the United States were once again routine by national standards, drawing limited media attention. At about 12:30 AM Saturday, a drive-by shooting at a high school graduation party in Griffin, Georgia, killed a 16-year-old boy and injured three others. Around 7 PM on Sunday, a drive-by targeting a group of people in a car in Nashville, Tennessee, injured four. Less than three hours later, another drive-by on a group outside a nightspot in New Orleans, Louisiana, injured four more. And at about 7:30 PM Monday night, a shooting at a house littered with guns and drugs in Newark, New Jersey, left five more injured.

Meanwhile, Europe's mass shooting, which unfolded on Sunday at about 3 AM at an outdoor music festival in the small town of Nenzig, Austria, was the largest (although not the deadliest) such attack on the continent this year. After reportedly arguing with a woman in a parking lot, a 27-year-old man grabbed a long gun from his car and fired randomly into the crowd—the kind of indiscriminate shooting you don't often see in Europe. The attacker created a stampede among attendees before ultimately killing himself. An unexpected public terror rivaling the worst mass shootings of America in a usually quiet part of the world, the Nenzig attack ticked almost every box for unrelenting media coverage, generating stories throughout the week in not just European but also American outlets.

But the tail-end of the week saw attention shift towards an attack in New York City that fell below VICE's threshold for a mass shooting: At about 10 PM Wednesday, a shooting broke out in the third-floor VIP room of the city's Irving Plaza concert venue, where the rapper T.I. was gearing up to perform to a crowd of about 1,000. The details of the incident remain hazy, but police have arrested rapper Troy Ave (born Roland Collins), 30, who suffered a graze wound to his leg; police say he was a shooter. Troy Ave's bodyguard-manager Ronald "Edgar" McPhatter, 33, died of a gut shot while in the hospital. Bystanders Maggie Heckstall, 26, and Christopher Vinson, 34, were also hospitalized with bullet wounds to the leg and chest, respectively; both are now said to be in stable condition. The shooting stemmed from an earlier fistfight, but it's unclear exactly who Troy Ave allegedly shot—i.e. whether he was responsible for all of the gunshot wounds, including the graze wound to his own leg, or just some of them.

For his part, NYC Police Commissioner William J. Bratton quickly blamed the shooting on what he describes as the thuggish nature of rap culture, a problematic contention at best. But his take still gets at the key reason this shooting received the mass media attention that a previous, technically "mass" shooting in New York last month did not: it involved, if only tangentially, names like 50 Cent and TI—prominent figures in American pop culture. The distorting power of celebrity isn't particularly novel or surprising when it infiltrates events like this one. But it is depressing that the United States still seems to accord more value to the lives and injuries of those proximal to its stars than the many others coping with what has become a national epidemic of mass gun violence.

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