Mass shootings such as those in Oak Tree and Aurora are not surprising but are increasingly part of everyday life.
The carnage at the Sikh Temple in Oak Tree, Wisconsin, following quickly on 'The Joker' killings in Aurora, Colorada, are not uncommon in a United States where gun control laws are lax and violated. These events are sadly part of a disturbing epidemic of mass shootings that has occurred in the United States since 2005. Wisconsin, which passed a law in 2011 allowing citizens to carry a concealed weapon, has some of the most permissive gun laws in the US.
As relatives still mourned for the 12 victims of the Aurora massacre, a man slaughtered 6 people at Sikh Temple at Oak Tree. He was shot dead but his violent act was a simple manifestation of a horrifying statistical trend. Across America BCPGV reported a total of 431 shootings with more than one victim since 2005. The nonprofit lobbying group revealed that certain cities displayed alarming tendencies for mass shootings. Chicago had 17 such shootings since 2005 with 30 deaths and 72 injured, followed by New Orleans, Kansas City and Philadelphia with 9 mass shootings each since 2005. But as Oak Tree clearly demonstrates, mass shootings can occur in small town America too. Oak Creek is a town of about 30,000 people in the south-east corner of Wisconsin. Aurora was a quiet suburb of Denver.
American readers of this blog can enter in an address and find out the nearest mass shooting that has occurred near their homes, schools or place of work. The map also links to news articles and personal testimonies of people affected by the shootings to provide a chilling context to the data visualisation. The site also invites readers for comments. One perplexed and angry reader wrote:
'Every minute of the day our culture sends people mixed and confusing messages about what kind of behaviour is appropriate. We show it's appropriate to swim in a ocean of weapons access yet we expect the weakest minds to ignore their violent impulses because the laws say it's wrong. We live in a culture that, by its behaviour, promotes, condones, and encourages rabid violence, then acts shocked and dismayed when sick and broken minds murder people. We're far more focused on punishment than removing the causes. If we don't want people to slaughter our loved ones, don't just TELL them it's wrong, SHOW them it's wrong. Put your money where your mouth is and shut down the weapons factories permanently. The gun fascists are not invincible and people are only helpless if they think they are'.
The worst incidents on US soil since 1991 include:
- Nov. 5, 2009: The Army report 13 people were killed and 30 wounded in a shooting rampage at its Fort Hood base in Texas.
- April 3, 2009: A 41-year-old man opened fire at an immigrant community center in Binghamton, N.Y., killing 11 immigrants and two workers. Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese immigrant and a former student at the center, killed himself
as police rushed to the scene.
- Feb. 14, 2008: Former student Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, fatally shooting five students and wounding 18 others before committing suicide.
- Dec. 5, 2007: 19-year-old Robert A. Hawkins opened fire with a rifle in Omaha, Neb., at a Von Maur store in the Westroads Mall, killing eight people before taking his own life. Five more people were wounded, two critically.
- April 16, 2007: Cho Seung-Hui, 23, fatally shot 32 people in a dorm and a classroom at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, then killed himself in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
- Feb. 12, 2007: 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic killed five and wounded four at the Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was then shot and killed by police.
- Oct. 2, 2006: Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, shot to death five girls at West Nickel Mines Amish School in Pennsylvania, then killed himself.
- March 21, 2005: 16-year-old student Jeffrey Weise killed nine people, including his grandfather and his grandfather's companion at home, and then five fellow students, a teacher and a security guard at Red Lake High School in
Red Lake, Minnesota, before killing himself. Seven students were wounded.
- March 12, 2005: Terry Ratzmann, 44, gunned down members of his congregation as they worshipped at the Brookfield Sheraton in Brookfield, Wisconsin, slaying seven and wounding four before killing himself.
- July 29, 1999: Former day trader Mark Barton, 44, killed nine people in shootings at two Atlanta, Georgia, brokerage offices, then committed suicide.
- April 20, 1999: Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before committing suicide in the school's
- March 24, 1998: Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, killed four girls and a teacher at a Jonesboro, Arkansas, middle school. 10 others were wounded in the shooting.
- October 16, 1991: George Hennard, 35, smashed his pickup truck through a Luby's Cafeteria window in Killeen, Texas, and fired on the lunchtime crowd with a high-powered pistol, killing 22 people. At least 20 others were
Mass shootings are now very common in America. The issue of gun control has been ignored for far too long despite a worrying escalation in mass gun crime. This week the man accused of shooting US Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Gibbons and killing 6 other people in January 2011 in Tucson, Arizona - a state with notoriously lax gun controls - pleaded guilty after a judge found him mentally competent.
Oak Tree and Aurora are simply two more mass killings added to a long escalating list of violence. They raise important questions for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as they enter the battleground for the American Presidency in this autumn's elections.
Dick Skellington 10 August 2012
The views expressed in this post, as in all posts on Society Matters, are the views of the author, not The Open University.
Cartoon by Catherine Pain