14 of America’s Worst 25 Mass Shootings Have Happened Since I Became a Mother in 2005

You lose sight of these kind of things in the day-to-day, but this morning I opened up Google to research the worst mass shootings in America’s history.  You know, as one does on a Monday morning.  Two of them have happened in the past six weeks.  How’s that for sobering?

I found this list that catalogued the deadliest mass shootings in America’s modern history.  Full disclosure, I have no idea what qualifies as “modern history” or when it began.  Per the list, sometime after World War II.  Also, this list is generated by CNN, so perhaps a few of you might believe it to be fake news.  Alas, it is not.  Mass killings are now becoming commonplace. We barely have time to wrap up sending our thoughts and prayers from one carnage before another one has occurred.

Art installation done by Michael Murphy at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Art installation, “Gun Country,” done by Michael Murphy at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014.

I sat down at the computer to write about a different aspect of this new culture of mass shootings (I will save that angle for another day, and, sadly, my guess is that I will not be waiting that long) when I went to Google.  Once there, I was sickened to realize that 56% of America’s worst mass shootings have happened in the twelve years since I have been a mom.

That means that my kids have only known an America where mass shootings are commonplace.  There have been seven in my young son’s life (he is 4) and twelve in my older son’s life (he is 8).  Even my daughter’s abbreviated life of just four years logged four mass shootings.

Just six weeks ago I was careful to keep the radio turned off so the boys would not hear the news out of Las Vegas before they started their day.  This morning, I kept the news on, the voices calmly relaying the details of our new normal — traffic, weather, body count.

In my own childhood, my mother never once had to turn the radio down for a report of mass carnage caused by guns in America.  The first mass shooting in my life happened in 1982 when I was 12 years old.  I had a childhood free of mass shootings.  Today’s children, mine included, cannot say the same.

I remember hearing stories from my parents about the man at the top of the tower at the University of Texas.  He killed 18 people and wounded dozens more on a summer day in 1966.  My Mom would never fail to remark that the shooter was diagnosed with a brain tumor during his autopsy, which somehow helped a traumatized nation make sense of the shooting spree.

Seeing the information, this landscape of our “Top 25” shootings, mapped out in my tidy handwriting on a notebook beside my computer, puts America’s problem with gun violence in stark focus.  Media outlets are now categorizing things like “worst church shooting,” “worst workplace shooting,” “worst school shooting.”  It is utter madness, lunacy, one of our great national sins.

To see and acknowledge the difference between the America I grew up in and the one my boys have inherited kind of, sort of makes me want to throw up.  Part of that is because I have little to no hope that things will change.  We are simply making room for these shootings in our lives rather than doing anything to stop them.

Just last week, which marked the one month anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting, I thought to myself that it felt like the violence had happened months and months earlier, not just a few weeks prior.  I wondered why there had been no follow-up coverage of what the motivation was behind the worst rampage on American soil.  I shuddered to realize that folks had just stopped caring.


There was an article I saw over the weekend, even before news of this latest shooting broke yesterday morning, that talked about efforts underway to educate Americans about “situational defense.”  There is a growing movement that is trying to convince us that if this is the America we live in, we should learn how to get used to it as best we can — remain vigilant in all places, know where the exits are at all times, learn to stop blood flow if someone next to you gets shot, get our children comfortable with live shooter drills.

Actually, as every other developed nation in the world demonstrates, there are ways to curtail senseless episodes of mass shootings.  Enacting common sense gun laws would require a collective American wail of, “Enough.”  We are not there.  Instead, we bicker about politics and 2A rights and libtards and snowflakes and doomsday scenarios of government tyranny.

My children deserve better.  Your children deserve better.  All children deserve better than the adults who surround them, including me and you, who have become so inured to the senseless violence that nothing changes.  I hold myself accountable.  And you.  And those elected officials bought and paid for by the NRA that represent us in DC.

Stand up.  Vote.  Demand better for your children than a country where mass shootings are as commonplace and mundane as folding laundry or grocery shopping.

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