A week that was clouded by tragic terrorism in Europe shouldn't distract us from the ongoing, almost daily terror of mass gun violence in America.
Over the past seven days, America has witnessed four mass shootings that left three dead and 14 injured. On Saturday afternoon, a drive-by in Wetumpka, Alabama killed two and injured two more. Later that night, gunfire at a house party in Plantation, Florida, killed one and wounded four others. And on Monday and Tuesday evening, shooters opened fire on young people on the streets of Chicago, Illinois and Selma, California, respectively, leaving four wounded in each incident. These attacks bring the tally of mass shootings in America in 2016 to date to 72 dead and 212 injured.
This figure surpasses the self-proclaimed body count of Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer and America's most prolific ever, who credited himself with 71 murders between 1982 and his 2001 capture in Washington State.
Europe, meanwhile, saw no mass shootings this past week, leaving that continent's toll from such attacks this year at seven dead and 36 injured—less than a sixth of American casualties. Of course, all eyes are on Europe this week anyway in the wake of Tuesday's Brussels airport suicide bombings, which left 31 dead and over 270 wounded. The largest act of violence, terrorist or otherwise, on the continent since the Paris terror attacks last November, the Brussels tragedy has triggered massive anti-terror investigations—and plenty of fear—in the region.
That attack has rightfully received much more attention than America's latest batch of mass shootings given its scale and importance for ongoing discussions on defense and safety in Europe and elsewhere. But even if Americans should be engaged with and sympathetic to the situation in Brussels, we cannot turn our national conversation completely to terrorism at risk of losing sight of the total gravity and grinding accumulation of mass shootings and their casualties in the United States.
With 284 overall casualties, this year's scattered mass shootings, which tend to receive haphazard attention at best, have been almost as bloody as the Belgium attack with its 301 casualties. And over the course of 2015, by one popular measure, similar incidents left 475 Americans dead and 1,870 wounded for a total of 2,345 casualties, far outstripping the level of carnage of Paris and Brussels combined. That toll even farther outstrips the number of Americans who have died in Islamic terrorist violence between 9/11 and the end of last year—a figure that stands at 45 people.
Terrorist attacks, somewhat like those perpetrated by serial killers, tend to become totemic symbols—driving conversations for months and years. This makes sense: massive, irregular, and devastating, these events leave behind a serious impact. And they point to legitimate concerns and threats. But we can't let abject horror distract us from the constant, almost rote danger of mass gun violence in America.
In weeks like this, as we all look to Belgium and the specter of terrorism, we ought to remember that the United States faces a slow but mounting tide of internal terror. We ought to remember that while they (somewhat) rarely grab the national spotlight, mass shootings are a constant threat in America—far worse than that of terrorism. We ought to know that we have the capability to hold two concerns simultaneously—that we can both respond to events like Brussels and our own mass shooting epidemic, which constantly compromises the safety and security of every American citizen. So even though this week was calm by American mass shooting standards, we can and should continue to be aware of these tragedies and the perversity of a gun culture gone off the rails—even as we pay due respect to European suffering.
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