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Editorial

The heartache of gun violence continues

Posted

A 49-year-old father of seven and grandfather of one, Ray Wishropp, was killed April 20 by a lone gunman in the manager’s office of the West Hempstead Stop & Shop over what Nassau County police say was an employee dispute.

We at the Herald offer our deepest sympathies to the Wishropp family. We also want to express our appreciation to the officers of the Nassau County and Hempstead village police departments, who quickly tracked down the alleged shooter and apprehended him without further violence. Their professionalism was on full display that terrible day.

The gunman, who was reportedly overly flirtatious with another employee, had met with a manager and requested a transfer to another supermarket. When he didn’t get what he wanted, he left the store, but returned 40 minutes later and started firing, police said. In addition to Wishropp, two other employees were injured in the attack.

It was an all-too-familiar scenario in America, particularly these days — another life extinguished all too easily, all too quickly, all too early, leaving another family in a state of our mourning and shock.

We are, seemingly, in a perpetual state of mourning and shock in the United States. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, when we pledged to never allow another mass shooting like this to happen again after 26 were killed, there have been hundreds of these shootings across the country.

Few rise to the level of Sandy Hook or the Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, in which 61 were killed and 411 injured. Most are smaller shootings, with a half-dozen or fewer victims. In fact, the Stop & Shop shooting would not be registered as a mass shooting on FBI statistics lists. For that, four people or more must be killed, according to the Congressional Research Service.

When looking at mass shootings more expansively, factoring in the number killed and injured, there have been 2,654 mass shootings since Sandy Hook — nearly 300 a year, or close to one a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Astoundingly, though, mass shootings account for only 2 percent of all murders in the U.S. In 2017, more than 11,000 people were murdered by gun; in 2018, 10,440; and in 2019, 10,258 — an average of 30 people a day. Think about that for a moment. Let the numbers sink in. At some point, we must wake up and own up to our reality: America is a murderous nation.

That fact does not comport with our image as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and democracy for all the world to emulate. Gun violence is our national psychosis, and we must act to reverse course. Instead we seem to thrust ever forward to new and unspeakable levels of violence.

Over the past year, when so much of the nation was on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw a merciful respite from mass shootings. All seemed relatively quiet. Then, as the country started to open up again this spring, they began anew, as if, during the past year, a temporary truce had been drawn up and the fighting had stopped, only to be reignited by a single violent act that triggered a cascade of more and more shootings.

As a nation, we must commit to ending the killings through a science-based approach to violence reduction. Long Islanders can be thankful that Northwell Health committed $1 million to establish a Center for Gun Violence Prevention in 2019. That December, the health system, one of the largest in the country, held its first Gun Violence Prevention Forum in December, followed by its second last December.

Our elected leaders and community activists need to become more vocal on this issue — seeking studies, as Northwell has done, to understand more fully the stranglehold that gun violence has on the nation, while at the same time calling for common-sense legislation to reduce the number of killings.

In New York, it’s easy to ignore the issue. The state has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws — and one of the country’s lowest death-by-gun rates. We will never, however, feel truly safe across this land until all states realize the importance of more stringent gun regulations in promoting public safety.

The Stop & Shop shooting reminded us, in no uncertain terms, that gun violence can erupt anywhere, at any moment, in America.