As America debated police brutality after two new tragedies, mass gun violence continued to much less media fanfare.
Over the past seven days, America endured nine mass shootings that left seven dead and 41 wounded. The attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 311 dead and 1,115 injured.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered zero mass shootings over the same period of time, leaving the continent's body toll in such attacks so far this year steady at 43 dead and 136 injured.
The bulk of this week's American tragedies were consistent with national patterns of mass gun violence, and as such they drew only limited and mostly local attention. Just before 8 PM last Friday, a shooting outside a home in Los Angeles, California, left two dead and two injured. The following day, at about 3:30 AM, a drive-by on patrons leaving a nightspot in Orlando, Florida, left one dead and six injured. At about 8 PM Saturday night, a shooting at a community concert in Washington, DC, killed two more and wounded seven. About two-and-a-half hours later, a drive-by on a Sweet 16 party in Miami, Florida, left six wounded.
At about 2 AM that same night—early Sunday—another drive-by, this one on a group leaving a memorial event in Lynchburg, Virginia, killed one and injured three. Almost two hours later, yet another drive-by in a nightspot parking lot in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, left four injured. At 1:20 PM Sunday afternoon, an apparent gun battle between two groups on the street in Lincoln Heights, Ohio, injured four. And finally at about 10 PM Sunday night, a street shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, left four people injured.
One incident over the past week was rather different: At about 11:20 PM Friday, 25-year-old Nicholas Glenn walked up to 46-year-old sergeant Sylvia Young—a local police officer—in her car and wordlessly opened fire with a 9mm Ruger pistol. He let loose 18 rounds, a number of which struck Young's protective vest and left arm. Glenn then fled, firing into the doorway of a bar, striking a 42-year-old man, the manager, and 41-year-old woman, a bartender. He then fired at a passing 2011 Nissan Altima, striking a 36-year-old man inside and a 25-year-old woman in the chest multiple times. At about 11:45 PM, Glenn was finally cornered in an alley by 56-year-old University of Pennsylvania police officer Eddie Miller and two other cops who engaged him in a gun battle. Glenn wounded Miller, but was himself killed. Ultimately, the 25-year-old woman died of her injures, and Glenn's other victims survived.
Given America's focus on police ambushes following the large, high-profile attacks on officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this July, one might have expected this point-blank assault and rampage to serve as a national lightning rod. But media focus on the attack faded within days, with no major outlets making any real attempts to connect it with those in July or the larger touchstone issues of police safety and race relations—although some noted there was another, smaller attack on Philadelphia police in January.
This police ambush likely received less attention than others earlier this summer because it was not explicitly linked to or motivated by national conversations on police violence against people of color. Glenn, a local black man with an extensive criminal history (some of it violent), reportedly had a note in his pocket addressed to "doomed people," which contained rambling diatribes mostly about himself, but also expressing a specific dislike for his parole officer and the local police force. The man does not appear to have had a reason to target Young, a black officer, except that she was wearing a badge. But the broader arc of his attack seems to have had more to do with his personal problems than an ideological agenda.
Meanwhile, just before Glenn's rampage, an officer shot and killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Days later, another officer shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, also a black man, in Charlotte, North Carolina, triggering ongoing protests in that city. These incidents and their aftermath have understandably drawn a substantial amount of America's media and mental bandwidth as they build upon ongoing narratives of and debates on racial tensions and policing tactics—a foothold of relevance Glenn's attack lacked.
It's only logical that the country would focus on these latest disturbing police shootings. But it's worth remembering many of this week's mass shootings, although they might seem hyper-local and personal, ultimately reflect deeper national concerns, too. From the roots of street conflict to the effects of incarceration on young people to gun culture in America, each large-scale shooting is packed with resonance and meaning. Every single one may not lend itself to easy symbolism and detailed coverage, but that just means it's up to the public to take an interest—rather than growing jaded about an ongoing national scourge that often fades into background noise.
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