Two young journalists and a woman they were interviewing were shot on live television on August 26, 2015. I started writing this in anger on a Wednesday night, the same day it happened, and decided to wait before publishing. My gut reaction was strong. I thought about this tragic story obsessively for a few days because of the way it was first broadcast in public, and then done again and again online.
If you haven’t read about it by now, a guy came shot three people during a live morning interview. Initially he got away and had time to post a his own, first-person video of the crime. To top that off, several media outlets shared the video that the murderer recorded and posted online.
By Thursday morning, some newspapers and TV stations were using stills (if not whole clips) from the incriminating video. With one article after another, whether it was Reuters or some other reliable source, I found myself watching an “edited” version of the shooting video. I had waited to calm down but a week later, it still makes no sense.
We will never stop trying figure out “what happened?” Why did he do it? Maybe that’s why the Daily News thought it was a good idea to publish a front page photo of Alison Parker being shot from the killer’s perspective. Many other newspapers did the same.
We read about murders and horrible crimes every single day. We look at statistics and try to grasp at what they represent, but somehow even the most violent images can’t force us as a country to react.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence wrote recently about how effective even relatively small changes to gun laws can make a huge difference in the number of people killed every year. One example they used was the state of Missouri and its repeal of a 80-year old law that required a background check and license to buy handguns from any type of seller.
“Johns Hopkins researchers determined that repeal of Missouri’s background check requirement was linked to a 14% increase in Missouri’s murder rate through 2012 and a 25% percent increase in firearm homicide rates. These researchers estimated that in tragic human terms, the law’s repeal translated into an additional 49 to 68 murders every year.”
That number is not just a number. Each one is a person whose life was taken by a gun. Not by a mentally ill person or a “disgruntled employee,” but by a gun that was available to them.