The effects of mass shootings are felt long after media attention has faded.
Over the past seven days, America witnessed five mass shootings that left six dead and 26 wounded. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 279 dead and 971 injured.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered one mass shooting over the same period of time. On Monday evening, police in Ternopil, Ukraine, responded to reports of a domestic dispute that ended in the sounds of gunfire only to find a woman dead and a man sitting with a hunting rifle. When officials tried to speak to him, he shot one officer dead and wounded another, initiating a standoff that lasted until Tuesday morning, after which police stormed the man's home, resulting in the death of a second officer, as well as the death of the assailant. This lurid incident brings the continent's body toll in such attacks so far this year to 40 dead and 126 injured.
Although the past seven days saw the fewest mass shootings in America since the last week of May , this stretch was actually deadlier and bloodier than last week , which witnessed eight such attacks. That disproportionate toll stems entirely from two unusual attacks, which managed to garner a bit of national attention this week: At about 1:00 AM on Saturday, police in Citronelle, Alabama, responded to reports of a man stalking his partner, who was trying to leave him, while she stayed at a friend's house. The stalker apparently fled, and the cops left—but then the man returned sometime between 1:15 AM and dawn, brutally murdered five people in the house, including a pregnant woman, and kidnapped his partner and her infant, taking them to his home state of Mississippi before releasing them and, with his father, turning himself in to the local authorities. Just about a day later, around 1:30 AM on Sunday, two shooters opened fire on an illicit for-profit party in the yard of a duplex in Bridgeport, Connecticut, wounding 13, but killing none of them—a bloody incident with a miraculous lack of death.
These attacks were all the more sensational in comparison to the three minor incidents they bracketed over the weekend: At about 1:30 AM on Saturday, a shooting at a bar in Hamden, Connecticut, injured four people. Then around three-and-a-half hours later, a street shooting in Tacoma, Washington, injured five more. Finally, just before midnight that night, another street shooting in Dorchester, Massachusetts, left four more injured. All of these attacks were both routine in their scale and contours and far too vague for anyone to stick a catching headline on.
Yet while the Citronelle and Bridgeport shootings were both significantly larger than the week's other attacks—and while the former stemmed from a disturbing yet gripping unusual narrative and the latter featured a shocking lack of death relative to victims—neither caused a significant national stir. Ultimately both incidents were just slightly tweaked manifestations of routine forms of mass gun violence: a domestic dispute and a party shooting. They lacked enough difference from the norm (and in the case of Citronelle had a firm enough conclusion) to become even minor landmark shootings of 2016. And so they faded from national headlines relatively quickly.
But even if the national scintillation of these stories faded quickly, it's worth remembering that their effects on local communities will endure. Citronelle is a small town of about 3,900 souls; the disappearance of six in such a blunt and horrific fashion will likely haunt the area for years to come. And no matter how minor many of the injuries in Bridgeport were, they will impact the lives of a fair number of those victims for weeks, months, or years to come—as will the quest to find their assailants . The same rules apply for those attacks that never grab national, or even enduring local, attention as well. It's often too easy to see America's mass shooting epidemic in terms of abstract figures. But now and then it's worth reminding ourselves that stories falling out of the news don't just become part of a static, numerical representation of the past. They live on, causing further harm to many through the ages. This collective, lasting trauma, ought to push us farther than statistics alone toward some kind of address to America's grinding mass-shooting epidemic, if we can find it in ourselves to comprehend it, as a matter of sheer human empathy.
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