We were at a loss for words. Two shootings — in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — in less than 24 hours. Thirty-one dead. Fifty-one injured. As information trickled in, the pit in our stomachs grew. A hate-filled manifesto indicating the El Paso killer had targeted Mexicans. Reports that the Dayton killer had been in a band celebrating the rape and dismemberment of women. A tweet from the president blaming the media.
We live in an age in which we've all become somewhat numb to mass shootings, which have tragically become as American as apple pie with the nation having seen 257 this year when the Journal went to press. By the time you read this, there will almost assuredly have been more. But even in this deranged age, what transpired in El Paso and Dayton feels different.
Rather than sending hopes and prayers, we're offering a statement of 31 points we feel need to be made, one for each of the victims who perished this weekend at the hands of two men wielding weapons of war.
1. There is an undeniable correlation between men who abuse the women in their lives and mass shooters.
2. The Dayton killer reportedly kept a "rape list" while in high school and sang in a "pornogrind" band whose album "Preteen Daughter Pu$$y Slaughter" had cover art depicting rape and the massacre of women. His transgender brother was among his victims.
3. He fits a pattern of an aggrieved white male misogynist, as most mass shooters do.
4. There is an undeniable correlation between men who subscribe to hateful ideologies and mass shooters.
5. Since 2011, suspects with ties to white extremism have carried out at least 17 active shooter attacks in the United States, according to an analysis by the New York Times, killing 96 people and wounding 110.
6. These are textbook examples of domestic terrorism — politically or ideologically motivated attacks carried out against noncombatant targets that are intended to capture attention and influence an audience.
7. The El Paso shooter reportedly published a bigoted manifesto prior to walking into Walmart with an assault-style rifle and opening fire. The manifesto deemed the pending attack a "response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," noting "they are the instigators, not me," and goes on to refer to immigrants as "invaders" and a "plague." The manifesto also noted the "media is infamous for fake news."
8. Hours after the shooting, President Donald Trump tweeted, "Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years," adding that coverage has to become "fair, balanced and unbiased or these terrible problems will only get worse!"
9. The president has said other things that were echoed in the El Paso shooter's manifesto, including references to immigrant "invasions" (his campaign Facebook ads have reportedly repeated this one more than 2,000 times), "infestations" and "animals."
10. During a May campaign rally in Florida, the president asked of people entering the country illegally, "How do you stop these people?" When a rally attendee shouted, "Shoot them!," the president laughed and responded, "That's only in the panhandle, can you get away with that," to wild applause.
11. The president has said lots of other racist things, many of them aimed at frothing up his base. Most famously, he said there were "very fine people" on both sides of the 2017 conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, apparently referring in part to white nationalists carrying Tiki torches and chanting, "Jews will not replace us," and called African nations "shithole countries" while lamenting the U.S. not getting more immigrants from Norway. He's also mocked a political rival by making jokes about atrocities carried out against Native Americans, including the Trail of Tears and the Wounded Knee massacre, and told four members of Congress — women of color who are U.S. citizens — to "go back" to the countries from which they came.
12. White supremacists hear these statements and appear validated and emboldened to have someone who talks like them in the nation's highest office. Don't take it from us. Here's what former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke had to say in Charlottesville: "We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promise of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in."
13. The president is, in fact, a racist. In the 1970s, he was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice, which unearthed evidence that he refused to rent to black tenants at his properties and lied to black applicants about whether there were vacancies. In the 1990s, John O'Donnell reported that Trump said "laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is. I believe that. It's not anything they can control." He didn't dispute making the statements in a subsequent interview. In 1992, Trump's hotel and casino paid a $200,000 fine for taking black dealers off tables at the request of guests who didn't want to associate with them. A few years earlier, a former employee alleged senior Trump Castle staff would clear black people off the floor whenever Trump came to the casino. We could go on.
14. But while the president's rhetoric likely incites bigoted violence, it's by no means the primary cause of mass shootings.
15. For the record, neither are video games or violent movies. Though we find many graphically violent first-person shooter games repugnant, we also realize they are now commonplace in most developed nations. American action movies even more so.
16. It's not mental illness, either, as there's nothing to indicate the rest of the world is immune from mental health issues.
17. Yet mass shootings of this scale and frequency remain uniquely American. When looking at the data, gun ownership and gun laws set the United States apart.
18. According to a 2018 small arms survey, civilians in the United States own 393 million firearms. That's 1.2 guns for every man, woman and child.
19. For every 100 residents, U.S. civilians own 120 firearms, the most in the world. Next on the list is Yemen, at 52.8, followed by Serbia and Montenegro, both at 39.1.
20. An analysis of gun-related killings in developed nations found 73 percent of homicides in the United States to be gun related, compared to just 38 percent in Canada.
21. According to NPR, the United States has the 28th-highest rate of deaths from gun violence in the world. With 4.4 gun deaths per 100,000 residents in 2017, it was more deadly than Iraq or Afghanistan.
22. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 38,658 people were killed by a gun in the United States in 2016, including 22,938 suicides, 14,415 homicides and 71 people killed in mass shootings.
23. Elsewhere, laws have proven to make a difference. When a gunman killed 17 people at a primary school in Scotland in 1996, the government introduced sweeping gun control laws and there has only been one mass shooting in the 23 years since. Within weeks of a gunman killing 51 people at a pair of New Zealand mosques, the country had banned semiautomatic weapons.
24. The El Paso shooter used a semi-automatic Kalashnikov-style rifle with multiple 30-round magazines, which he brandished in the parking lot as he walked into the store. He reportedly didn't break a law until he opened fire.
25. The Dayton killer wielded an AR-15 style pistol, a new variation on the popular assault-style rifle that is shorter and easier to conceal, and a 100-round drum magazine that combined to allow him to shoot 37 people in about 30 seconds. Both the gun and the magazine were reportedly legal for him to carry.
26. If you aren't advocating for stricter national gun laws — including universal background checks and bans on both assault rifles and high capacity magazines — you are part of the problem.
27. If you aren't explicitly telling and showing your sons that violence against women is intolerable and wrong, you are part of the problem.
28. If you aren't telling and showing your daughters never to accept or endure an intimate partner's violence, you are part of the problem.
29. If you aren't telling and showing all your children — and everyone in your orbit — that prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, hate, xenophobia, racism and violence are wrong, you are part of the problem.
30. If you aren't actively trying to change this nation in which we live, you are part of the problem.
31. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Progress is never given but demanded and won.
Editor's note: : While initial reporting identified the Dayton shooter’s sibling as Megan Betts, subsequent reporting has indicated he identified as transgender, used he/his pronouns and went by the name Jordan Cofer. The Journal regrets not initially using his preferred pronouns.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the Journal's arts and features editor. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or jennifer@northcoastjournalcom. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.
Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.