By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
On the campaign trail, on Twitter, and at post-election rallies, President Donald Trump has described the media as the lowest form of life, almost treasonous, and an enemy of the state. But that is not what caused the mass shooting in Annapolis.
Just this week Milo Yiannopolous, a political commentator, and the former senior editor for Breitbart News, said he couldn’t wait until vigilantes started “gunning down” journalists (which he clarified later that he wasn’t “serious”). But that is not what caused the mass shooting in Annapolis.
Also this week California Congresswoman Maxine Waters said that “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. You push back on them. Tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere!” But that is not what caused the mass shooting at Annapolis.
All of those statements are unnecessary, and heated rhetoric that can bring no good to society, America the general discourse, or to solution-finding dialogue, but let’s be clear – they did not cause the mass shooting at The Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis on Thursday.
100% of the blame falls on a 38-year-old man named Jarrod Ramos. According to police reports, Ramos had a dispute with the Gazette and sued them in 2011 for defamation. He lost the lawsuit, but multiple tweets over the course of several years show that his anger only escalated. Ramos targeted the Gazette specifically when he opened fire on them on Thursday – killing four journalists and one sales associate.
It’s difficult to understand the rage in a person that would cause this sort of violence. But even as we struggle to make sense of these tragedies, we know it has to end.
Ramos becomes the 154th mass shooter in the United States this year. That is nearly one mass shooting per day. And as horrific as that sounds, here are a few more sobering gun violence statistics for 2018:
- Total number of gun incidents in the United States – 28,434
- Deaths – 7,075
- Injuries – 13,450
- Children (0-11 yrs. old) killed or injured – 323
- Teenagers (12-17 yrs. old) killed or injured – 1,350
- Mass shootings – 154 (in 180 days)
- Law Enforcement Officer killed or injured – 130
- Unintentional shootings – 835
Soon, we will begin the process of analyzing how this latest mass shooter obtained his weapon, what type it was and whether any particular proposal for gun control might have stopped him. We will analyze his ideology, race, nationality, and try to pin his motives to the other side of the aisle’s way of thinking in this useless political debate that never, ever ends in an effective plan to move forward, unless winning in November is the ultimate plan.
Haven’t we, as a nation, had enough?
Whatever may prove to be the case in this incident, we know the United States has more guns per capita than any other nation on the planet and is second only to Yemen, a country in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, in mass shootings per capita globally. Among first-world nations, the US is by far the worst in gun violence.
Shouldn’t we, as a nation, be locked-in on solving this epidemic more than we are locked-in on a political soap opera that seems to have no end?
Journalists went back to work on Friday — the day after four of their own were victims of a mass shooting in a community newsroom. They kept informing, engaging and inspiring us. They kept telling stories that improve public life. They continue to do their jobs despite the highly-charged anti-journalistic rhetoric of the day.
And the surviving members of the Capital Gazette kept working even after watching their newsroom got shot to pieces, and five of their fellow staffers fell.
One of their reporters, Chase Cook, tweeted this:
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
Working from their homes, cars, and the garage of their building while first responders worked inside their newsroom – now turned into a crime scene, the staff of the Capital Gazette published its Friday edition, just like Cook said they would.
Just like they do every day.
Verbal attacks on journalists did not cause this shooting, but we know the narrative of journalists as enemies has been normalized in too many circles. The divisiveness of politics drives public perception of journalism much more than ever before.
That divisiveness should end. It’s dangerous, and it could trigger future violence. Let what happen in Annapolis be a wakeup call to social media posters and politicians alike.
While it is rare in the United States for a journalist to be killed, worldwide, it’s a more common occurrence. Globally, 29 journalists have died on the job in 2018, and 1,310 since 1992. Another 262 have been imprisoned since 2017, and 59 are missing globally.
Tonight I will say a prayer for the Capital Gazette’s Editorial Page Editor Gerald Fischman, Columnist, and Editor Rob Hiaasen, Staff Writer John McNamara, Sales Assistant Rebecca Smith, and Special Publications Editor Wendi Winters. I will pray for their families and thank God that they chose the noble profession of journalism.
They made the world a better place.
I will also thank God for the law enforcement officers who were reportedly on the scene within 60 seconds of the 9-1-1 call, and that undoubtedly saved lives in the newsroom with their rapid, brave and well-trained response.
And finally, I will pray that we, as Americans, will demand solutions to gun violence and not retreat to our collective tribal camps and arm ourselves with the standard talking points that have not moved us toward any sort of solution for decades.
In the name of the shooting victims at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, and at the Capital Gazette Newsroom in Annapolis, let’s demand as Americans that elected officials in Washington DC work together beyond the rhetoric, beyond the lobbyists, and beyond the partisan divides and solve the issue of gun violence in the United States.
And maybe the first step is to dramatically dial down the rhetoric on Facebook, Twitter, and in Congress and The White House.