It was a normal day on Monday, Nov. 19 when a man walked into the parking lot at Mercy Hospital with a gun tucked into his waistband. It was still a normal day when he got into an argument with his ex-fiance outside.
But when that man, a 32-year-old carrying multiple magazines for his 9mm Glock 17 handgun, fired more than 40 shots in the near Southside hospital, the lives of many changed forever.
Just a few days later, the terror of that afternoon seems to have faded from the city’s collective memory.
The shooting at Mercy is likely headed for the same fate as so many like it: forgotten, blending in with hundreds of others in a nation that have become all too familiar with mass gun violence.
It shouldn’t be like this.
A man walked into a hospital, a place of healing, and murdered three people, including a 24-year-old woman and a police officer. But in an age when the death toll required to constitute a “mass shooting” seems to rise by the day, this one seems small.
“At least it wasn’t worse,” one might be tempted to say, as if a shooting is not bad enough already. But “small” shootings like the one at Mercy make up the vast majority of mass shootings in the United States.
Far from the carnage of massacres like the one at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at Sandy Hook Elementary, at a country music festival in Las Vegas or at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, nearly all mass shootings are the size of the one at Mercy.
While the FBI doesn’t define a “mass shooting,” and doesn’t collect data on them, a crowd-funded project called massshootingtracker.org has been collecting data on mass shootings since 2013. It defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot, including the shooter.
According to its data, there have been 361 mass shootings since the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2018. That’s more than one mass shooting every day.
And although those shootings killed more than 400 people and wounded more than 1,300, most result in just one dead and an average of about four wounded. Just three of those resulted in 10 or more killed.
Not all those shootings were the work of the stereotypical deranged white man with a bone to pick with society. Many involved entire families killed by a mentally ill relative. Others were the kinds of shootings Chicago is all too familiar with — gang-related shootings that left multiple bystanders injured or killed.
This is the reality of mass gun violence in America. Not the shootings that dominate headlines for months at a time, not the double-digit death tolls and calls for change. Shootings in which a person, for whatever twisted reason, kills other people en masse but either stops or is stopped before they can kill enough to get the kind of notoriety the worst shootings attract.
We have created a pseudo-threshold for what gets national attention, where if it does not meet a certain level of gruesomeness, we simply ignore it, or give it only passive attention.
It’s easy to be fooled by the relative smallness of a shooting like Mercy. Or the one in Philadelphia, which also killed four people on the same day.
Or the one in Tsayatoh, New Mexico, which killed four and wounded one just six days earlier.
Or the one Oct. 15 in Columbia, Tennessee, which killed five.
Or the one Oct. 13 in Taft, Texas, which killed four and wounded one.
Or the one Oct. 10 in Rochester, New York, which killed four.
Or the one Sept. 21 in Henderson, Nevada, which killed four.
Or the one Sept. 20 in Aberdeen, Maryland, which killed four and wounded three.
The list goes on and on.