Each week since the Uvalde massacre, numerous mass shootings have rocked the U.S. It’s almost at the point that unless children are being torn apart in classrooms by AR-15s or a death toll higher than five, these shootings don’t make an impact, yet I found myself rattled by one that happened on June 4, five states away.
“I wasn’t sure if Katie sent this to you. This is upsetting,” my mother texted me early June 5,. linking to a headline reading, “3 dead. 11 injured after shooting on South Street in Philadelphia,” detailing the mass shooting on the 200 block of Philadelphia’s South Street.
“A staffer at O’Neals Pub, just south of the intersection, described the situation to The Inquirer as “'chaos,'” read the article she sent. I’ve been to O’Neal’s multiple times, most significantly when my brother-in-law rented out their second floor to throw my sister Katelyn a surprise 30th birthday party.
I could see another Irish pub, Paddy Whacks, behind one of the reporters relaying the carnage to viewers. I spent a few hours this New Year’s day at Paddy Whacks while home for the holidays with a large group of friends. It wasn’t on camera, but if you turn left down, second, across from Paddy Wack’s, you’ll find The Twisted Tail, a favorite brunch spot where we had my nephew’s post-Baptism brunch last October. I got chills realizing that if the reporter moved to the right, I’d be able to see a block and a half down to the door to the second-floor condo my sister Katelyn and her husband lived in for years. That’s what had me rattled.
It’s one thing to hear about mass shootings in a Buffalo grocery store or Texas school. It’s another to watch the aftermath of one somewhere you’re intimately familiar. Katelyn could easily have been enjoying a night out at O’Neal’s with girlfriends that Saturday night. Or, and even typing this makes my eyes well up, she could’ve been walking there with our brother Shawn, who enjoys visiting the city and exploring new restaurants with her. I have numerous friends and family, people I love and care about, who easily could’ve been there that night.
What if the next one — and there’s been a steady stream for years now — is somewhere someone you love works, shops, dines, or meets friends? What if it’s here?
Five guns were fired on a block filled with bars and restaurants that Saturday in Philly. Imagine if five guns went off at the intersection of Biltmore and Patton at dinner on a Saturday — that’s a comparable scenario. Imagine if the next mass shooting — because again, there will be a next one—results in our local politicians offering “thoughts and prayers” while an Asheville parent writes an obituary containing the line, “He loved dinosaurs and made the honor roll last year”? How can anyone be OK with that? How have we allowed this to essentially be normalized?
Two days after the Philadelphia shooting, I was sitting on the patio of the Olde London Road Pub in the River Arts District enjoying a post-work beer with a friend when we heard a barrage of pops, followed by a parade of police cars flying to the scene of what we later learned was over 50 rounds fired into three occupied homes. The scary thing is that we continued about our night without missing a beat. To quote one John Mellencamp, “Ain’t that America.”
This should not continue to be how we live our lives, and we shouldn’t stop talking about it, worrying about it, and in my opinion, making this — not the borders, gas prices, or critical race theory — the main focus on next fall’s election. I’m not, and the average voter isn’t, advocating for a ban on all firearms, but we need to regulate how accessible guns are if we care about saving American lives.
We must force our politicians to have nuanced, bipartisan conversations about gun control and force them to explain and self-interrogate how their financial interests have prevented them from doing that.
Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have accepted over $11 million dollars from the NRA. Republican congressional nominee Chuck Edwards tweeted on March 6 how “we need a licensed gun dealer” like him in Congress. It should rattle you that financial interests are largely what’s preventing lawmakers from even discussing common-sense gun laws that would 100% make America safer.
Pat Brothwell is a former high school teacher, and current writer and marketing professional living and working in Asheville.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Opinion: Mass shooting deaths will inevitably affect us all