An attack near a German shopping mall Friday brought the mass gun violence focus away from the United States and back to Europe.
Over the past seven days, America witnessed 11 mass shootings that left seven dead and 54 wounded. The attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 233 dead and 779 injured.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered one mass shooting over the same period, with initial reports suggesting at least eight were killed and many more injured by multiple shooters near a Munich, Germany, shopping mall Friday; at the time of publication, the situation remained fluid with suspects at-large and authorities treating it like a possible terrorist attack.
In the United States, the shooting that defined the week was 29-year-old Gavin Long's assault on police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, starting at about 8:30 AM Sunday. His motives remain unclear as authorities work through an unconfirmed manifesto the man supposedly left with an Ohio rapper, emails hinting at grievances, and online writings under a pseudonym, Cosmo Setepenra. But it's clear that Long drove to Baton Rouge from Kansas City, Missouri, his home, and scouted out at least four police stations before intentionally luring cops into an ambush near the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters. He used three weapons to kill BRPD officers Montrell Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, as well as East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola, 45—and injured three more officers, one of whom was, as of publication, still in critical condition. He was ultimately shot dead by SWAT responders who hit him with multiple rounds.
Long's ambush came after a string of attacks on cops following the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile outside St. Paul, Minnesota earlier this month. The threat of such attacks had been especially acute in the Louisiana city, where local cops claimed to have thwarted another coordinated, targeted attack plan last week—all while cracking down on demonstrations against Sterling's death. When one considers the commonalities between Long and Micah Johnson, the Dallas police assassin—both men were troubled and well-armed military veterans apparently taking up arms against what they perceived as unjust police killings—it's easy to see how nervous minds might read Baton Rouge as the escalation of a twisted trend.
But an equally deadly (if less bloody) shooting struck elsewhere in America days before Long's assault. At about 10:30 PM last Friday, a 35-year-old skinhead tattoo artist covered in Nazi ink named Brent Luyster shot three people, 36-year-old Zachary David Thompson, 38-year-old Joseph Mark Lamar, and 43-year-old Janell Renee Knight dead in a Woodland, Washington, home with close-range, execution-style head shots. He also shot the mother of Thompson's children, Breanne Leigh, in the head, but she managed to escape. Luyster was briefly on the loose, armed and dangerous, leaving the region terrorized into the weekend.
Luyster's brutal murders were followed on Saturday by a drive-by in Dallas, Texas, at about 12:45 AM, which left five people injured. Minutes later, a shooting outside a club event in Cleveland, Ohio, left another five injured. About an hour later, a shooting outside a nightclub in Clarksville, Tennessee, wounded another six individuals. And an hour after that, three men ejected from a house party in Bakersfield, California, opened fire on the venue, injuring 14 people—but miraculously killing none of them. Later in the day—at about 11 PM local time—a shooting at a house party in San Bernardino, California, left another four injured.
The weekend closed out with an altercation at a drag race early Sunday morning in Detroit, Michigan, that left four injured. That same morning, a drive-by in a Walgreen's parking lot in Houston, Texas, about 1 AM injured three teens and killed a 48-year-old bystander named Edward Long. Two days later, another drive-by in West Memphis, Arkansas, injured four more individuals. Finally, on Thursday, yet another drive-by in Chicago, Illinois, injured five more people.
It's understandable that these attacks did not receive the same attention as Baton Rouge. Despite the impressions left by the past couple of weeks and furious claims at the Republican National Convention, cop killings are incredibly rare in America. That makes their occurrence all the more alarming in the national imagination, especially when they speak to and build upon pressing and vital conversations about law and order and race relations. Baton Rouge was a grim paragraph in what is sure to become an important chapter in American history. These other attacks, meanwhile, were routine by national standards, the situations and affected individuals lining up with entrenched media narratives about who gets hurt by gun violence.
The lack of cultural resonance does not make the lives lost or forever changed by injury in these routine attacks any less important, though. The fact that there can be so much death in large scale gun violence that basically gets ignored is itself a horrific state of affairs. Baton Rouge and the issues underlying the targeting of police deserves attention now and far into the future, of course. And the extent of the unfolding German mass shooting's damage, the motives of the attacker(s), and their implications on global discourse remain to be seen. But this past week served as another example of how mass gun violence systematically recedes into the background of American life, with everything from political conventions to the acquisition of digital creatures dominating the cultural airwaves.
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