Column: A 1-year-old boy in Chicago and a mother of 6 from Pennsylvania are both victims of road rage and America’s unique scourge — gun violence

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A 1-year-old boy in Chicago and a mother of six from Manheim, Pennsylvania, are forever and improbably linked, both having been shot during what police are describing as road rage incidents in the spring of 2021 — a staggeringly violent year, even by American standards.

As of this writing, the little boy was in critical condition after a bullet struck his right temple while the car he was in traveled north on Lake Shore Drive Tuesday morning. Julie Eberly, a 47-year-old Pennsylvania woman, died from the wounds she suffered on Interstate Highway 95 in Lumberton, North Carolina, as she and her husband drove to a late March anniversary getaway in South Carolina.

The violence they endured is an atrocity. It’s also stunningly common.

In the past month alone, gunmen have shattered or ended the lives of men, women and children at three Atlanta-area spas, a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, a California office complex, near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, at a warehouse party in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood and outside a Wrightwood neighborhood storefront.

At least seven people were shot dead in separate incidents across Chicago on Easter Sunday.


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More than 43,000 Americans died from guns in 2020, according to Gun Violence Archive data, making it the deadliest year in two decades.

Is gun violence what America has come to be known for? Is it the thing that binds us together, rural and urban and suburban, young and old, across backgrounds? The possibility of being shot to death at school, at church, at the movies, at a music festival, at a yoga studio, at a grocery store, at a country bar, at a gas station, at a garlic festival, at work, at a hospital, on a sidewalk?

And are we OK with that?

More people are killed by guns by early February in the United States than during a full calendar year in other high-income countries, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization.

“It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be in a situation like this at some point in our lives,” James Bentz, 57, told the Denver Post after he survived the King Soopers shooting.

In 2014, after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in Isla Vista, California, the Onion published a satirical article headlined, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” Onion editors update and republish the article after other mass shootings, changing the date and location, but leaving the headline untouched.

“In the hours following a violent rampage in Georgia in which a lone attacker killed eight individuals and injured one other, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Wednesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place,” the Onion wrote after the Atlanta-area spa shooting. “‘This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,’ said Iowa resident Jamie Harkin, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.”

Earlier this week I wrote about why Chicago shootings are frequently left out of national discussions about mass shootings and the toll they take on our nation. I heard from readers all over the country, but one note stood out. It’s from Eric Dillenberger, who describes himself as a community organizer in New York City working on the intersection of crime, justice policy and jail construction.

“It is divisive and counterproductive to compete to be recognized as first among the afflicted and disenfranchised in a zero-sum contest which no rational group should want to win,” Dillenberger wrote. “We need solutions that maintain peace and start a new ripple of love and understanding. Is the solution peace officers, the judicial system, education, poverty eradication or social equalization? Maybe a little of all of it.”

Or will we continue to eschew solutions, choosing instead to shrug and accept the inevitability of it all?

It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be in a situation like this at some point in our lives.

What a stunning indictment.

“To paraphrase the poet John Donne,” Dillenberger wrote in his email, “‘Every man’s death diminishes us. Do not ask for whom the funeral bell tolls, the bell is tolling for us.’”


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