Opinion: The victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings need our sympathy

Illustration by Evan McGrady

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Another day, another shooting. Another day in the land of the free, the home of the brave — another heart-wrenching amount of lives lost to unnecessary gun violence: to preventable, avoidable gun violence. 

Within a span of less than 24 hours, 31 innocent people were maliciously taken from this world. Over the weekend of Aug. 2, two mass shootings happened in two American cities — collectively ending in the murder of 31 innocent people. On Aug. 2, 22 residents of El Paso, Texas never went home. Hours later, nine Dayton, Ohio residents lost their lives. 

El Paso:

Javier Amir Rodriguez. David Johnson. Arturo Benavides.

Jordan and Andre Anchondo. 

Sara Esther Regalado Moriel. Adolfo Cerros Hernández. 

Gloria Irma Márquez. María Eugenia Legarreta Rothe. 

Ivan Manzano. Juan de Dios Velázquez Chairez. 

Leonardo Campos Jr. Maribel Campos. Angelina Silva-Englisbee.

Maria and Raul Flores.

Jorge Calvillo Garcia. Alexander Gerhard Hoffman. Teresa Sanchez. 

Margie Reckard. Elsa Libera Marquez. Luis Alfonso Juarez.


Megan Betts. Lois Oglesby. Saeed Saleh.

Derrick Fudge. Logan Turner. 

Nicholas Cumer. Thomas McNichols. 

Beatrice Warren-Curtis. Monica Brickhouse.

Surprised? I wish I could say I was. However, mass shootings have become normal in the United States. These shootings have become an epidemic. In fact, there have been more shootings this year than there have been days. According to the non-profit organization Gun Violence Archive, as of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there had been 225 mass shootings in the United States of America. 

Yet, no matter how ordinary these shootings have become, we seem to constantly center the conversation around some sort of political agenda. Whether it be a call for gun regulation or a plea to pay more attention to mental health, we gravely overlook the lives carelessly taken. Today, I want to write a more emotional, yet rational tale, rather than further my personal political ideologies.

Jordan and Andre Anchondo. A couple recently blessed with a beautiful, healthy two-month-old baby boy in El Paso, Texas. A couple that was parenting a five year old girl. A couple full of youth and love. A couple that died protecting their son. On Aug. 2, a baby boy and his older sister lost their parents. That day, a family was shattered.

It’s difficult not to think about where the next shooting will be. It’s difficult not to fear that the next shooting could affect me. Just think of how many times we’ve all, VCU students and Richmond residents, received a VCU alert warning us about some form of shooting. West Broad. North Belvidere. West Marshall. Main. I’ve read about shootings in all these areas, and more, plenty of times — and I’m only a sophomore this year.

Just a few days ago on Aug. 10, police in Richmond responded to a shooting at a sports bar on Midlothian Turnpike. Four innocent people were shot, however, all thankfully survived. Just two days ago, on Monday, Richmond police, yet again, responded to a shooting in Creighton Court. A man was left with a gunshot wound, yet thankfully survived as well.

These shootings happen so close to us at VCU. We here about Dayton and think, “Thank God I’m not in Ohio.” We hear about El Paso and think, “Thank God I’m not in Texas.” We think, because these shootings are not close to us, we don’t need to be as concerned. 

Well, there are mass shootings and acts of gun violence happening right here. Creighton Court is less than five miles outside Monroe Park campus. Is that close enough to care? We hear about schools like Columbine, Parkland, Virginia Tech, and it’s unrealistic to firmly believe that VCU can’t be added to this infamous list. 

I won’t lie: It’s easy to sit here and bash Trump, the Republican party and anyone who cannot see these senseless killings are primarily a result of the loosely restricted gun industry in this country. It’s easy to blame bullies for their mistreatment of others and to point fingers at families and friends who couldn’t see the signs to prevent such tragedy. It’s easy to use those affected, whether lost or having lost someone, as political ammunition to further political causes.

However, what’s not easy is genuinely comprehending and sympathizing with the pain endured by families and friends of the victims of these heinous murders. We’re constantly subjected to hearing: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Now, imagine hearing the names of the victims with the same frequency with which we hear that phrase. 

Lois Oglesby. A mother raising two children: a two-month-old son and a seven-year-old daughter in Dayton, Ohio. She was working tirelessly to provide for her children, just trying to return to her usual lifestyle prior to having her baby. A mother who was brutally shot on her first day out. On Aug. 3, a baby boy and his older sister lost their mother. On Aug. 3, a family was shattered.

I cannot even begin to recall the last time I’ve collectively seen all the names of those lost during American mass shootings. Aside from the Washington Post’s extensive list of the 1,196 U.S. mass shooting victims since 1966, there isn’t much coverage regarding the full display of all victims. That’s just as disheartening as using the “saddest” story as political capital. For every mass shooting in this nation, a few victims are primed as political gold; their loss is utilized as a conversation starter, as opposed to just letting the shooting itself be the most heartbreaking piece of it all. 

We read stories like this, about these lives ruined by senseless acts, and we cannot even begin to fathom the pain these people are being forced to feel. My dad believes there is no longer a place in the U.S. that is safe. We’ve seen shootings at schools, universities, stores, malls, cinemas, parks, concerts. Everywhere.

As a nation, we need to become more sympathetic to one another. Yes, we need to have the conversation about regulated gun laws, mental health and being nicer to one another. Yes, we need to begin to try to minimize — and hopefully eradicate — the amount of mass shootings that occur in this country. But, until that happens, we need to start centering our focus and attention to helping those heroes who have fallen victim to fruitless brutality.

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