Sadly, due to the number and frequency of mass shootings, I — like everyone else — must now look for exit signs, size people up, and devise plans to get my family to safety every time I go shopping or attend a public event.
That was never more evident than it was 10 days ago when I took my daughter to see “The Lion King.” Shortly after the movie started, a man wearing a MAGA hat entered the theater alone and made his way to the top row of seats. He was out of place. Probably in his 40s, and wearing a jacket in the summer heat, he kept his hands in his pockets while sitting alone in a movie for young people.
After a 30-second stare down, I began moving my 10-year-old daughter toward the exit, in spite of her protests.
Just as I was about to leave, his wife and two kids came into the theater, carrying popcorn, snacks and sodas.
“Thank God,” I thought to myself.
A few hours later that same day, July 28, three people died after being shot by 19-year-old Santino William Legon, who was fatally shot by police. Legon also wounded 13 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California.
Shortly before the shooting, Legon recommended on social media that people read the 19th-century book “Might Is Right,” a white supremacist tome that promotes racial violence.
Then, on Aug. 3 — the very day 31 people were shot to death and 42 others were wounded in two separate attacks in El Paso, Texas, and later Dayton, Ohio — I was once again forced to take note of the fastest way out, this time searching for an exit from the Target store in Glendale that I was shopping in with my family that Saturday morning. I got a news alert on my cell phone about the situation in El Paso as it was unfolding, so I found myself once again forced to look with suspicion at others, only now not just one person but many people I passed in the mall.
In El Paso, Texas Patrick Crusius, 21, has been charged with shooting and killing 22 people, many of them shopping for school supplies at a Walmart. Two of the victims, Jordan and Andre Anchondo, died protecting their 2-year-old son.
According to news reports, Crusius allegedly posted online a manifesto filled with white supremacist language, discouraging race mixing and calling for immigrants to “go back to their countries.” Some of the same words and phrases he used have also been used by President Trump.
Hours later, police say Connor Betts fatally wounded nine people, including his sister, before being shot to death by police following an attack launched in the city’s downtown section, an area filled with trendy bars, clubs and restaurants, according to CNN. An additional 27 people were wounded.
The crowd-sourced Mass Shooting Tracker Project defines a mass shooting as an event where four people are shot — but not necessarily killed — in one incident. Using this formula, 387 people died and 1,661 people were injured in 323 mass shootings in 2018.
Just this year alone, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker Project, there have been 297 mass shootings, including those committed last weekend, totaling 346 deaths and scores more injured.
Things have always been a little scary when it comes to mass shootings, but never like this.
My parents never worried about a mass shooter when we went to dinner, a movie, shopping or anywhere else when I was a boy growing up in Altadena. We also shouldn’t have to worry, but we must.
The fact is it’s far too easy for people with issues to get weapons, some of them capable of killing dozens of people within seconds.
Yes the GOP is correct when they say mental illness could be a contributing factor, as are probably ultra-violent video games a bad influence. But the Democrats are also correct when they point to the hateful rhetoric of a US president attempting to appease the extreme wing of a party made up of white racists.
What was also apparent after each of these events and others was the willingness of politicians to use tragedies like these to score political points.
The question is, are any of these politicians really thinking about the concerns of everyday Americans who just want to live their lives without being fearful of gun violence?
The political volleying and thoughts and prayers after shootings does nothing to calm my fears that a horrific event could devastate my family and end the lives of my wife, my 22-year old son or my 10-year old daughter at any moment.
You know that when you become suspicious of every person with whom you come into contact the fear is real.
It’s time for America to get serious about gun violence, before it’s no longer safe to venture outside.