By Anthony Nubile
The second mass shooting of the year occurred on March 22 when a 21-year-old man killed 10 people at a supermarket in Colorado. This follows a series of shootings in Atlanta where another 21-year-old man killed eight people at multiple massage parlors.
The alleged Colorado shooter, Ahmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa, entered the parking lot of the King Soopers in Boulder and began shooting. Al-Issa killed two people before entering the store and killing eight more.
Shortly after the first shots were fired, police arrived on the scene and engaged in a 20-minute shootout with the suspect, during which one of the first officers on the scene, Eric Talley, was killed. The suspect was shot by Boulder police and was temporarily hospitalized before being moved to the county jail.
Some believe this may have been a copycat shooting, referencing a mass shooting just a week earlier. This shooting occurred when Robert Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, entered a massage parlor in Acworth and killed four people and wounded one more. Long then shot and killed four more women at two different massage parlors northeast of Atlanta.
Long was charged with eight counts of murder after confessing to the killings while in custody. The shootings that occurred in Boulder are still under investigation as of the publication of this story.
“Like the rest of the community, we too want to know why, why that King Soopers, why Boulder, why Monday,” said Boulder police chief Maris Herold at a press conference on March 26th. “And unfortunately, at this time we still don’t have those answers.”
These shootings have occurred just as many states in the country are starting to open back up from the year-long COVID-19 pandemic. Although 2020 had the lowest number of public mass shootings in more than a decade, the causes of those low numbers could be coming to an end as evidenced by these recent shootings.
Experts say there could be two main reasons for the unusually low numbers. One is that most people could not go out in public or avoided it entirely due to COVID-19 restrictions. This gave fewer opportunities for would-be shooters to carry out their plans in large gatherings. The other reason being that many Americans focused on other tragedies that would-be gunmen might be less likely to go through with their attacks.
The lack of shootings as well as the lack of media coverage on shootings could support what experts such as James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University call the “contagion effect.” This suggests that the more mass shootings are talked about and covered by media outlets, the more gunmen focus on carrying out these shootings.
And while the number of mass shootings dropped drastically, the number of gun and ammo sales skyrocketed during 2020.
The FBI said it had processed a record-number 39.7 million background checks in 2020 for those looking to purchase a firearm. This beats the previous record by more than 10 million. The number of background checks that resulted in a firearm purchase also reached a record-high 21 million. This is a 60% increase over 2019’s 13.2 million firearms sold.
The rise in gun sales is considered to be caused by the perfect storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, violent protests over the summer and the presidential election.
This effect on gun sales can be seen nationwide and even right here the Santa Clarita Valley. Making a visit to one of the many gun shops here in SCV will result in the observation of bare shelves where hundreds of boxes of ammo once were and a small variety of firearms to choose from.
These recent shootings have also reignited the gun control debate brought forth by many politicians in Washington as well as local politicians, like former Assemblywoman Christy Smith.
“Our community has experienced the realities of senseless gun violence firsthand,” Smith told elections.bradyunited.org. “From enacting Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, to universal background checks and common-sense gun safety reforms — we can, and we will build safer communities, together.”
Both gunmen involved in the shooting earlier this month did pass background checks and did own the firearms that were involved in the shootings legally. Many are pushing for even stricter gun reform laws as our country fights to find a way to stop these senseless acts of violence.