Editorial: Is there nowhere Americans can feel safe?


Matt Rourke, AP

A police vehicle next to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. A 46-year-old man killed 11 Jewish people before surrendering to authorities at the place of worship on the morning of Oct. 27.

By The Easterner, Editorial Board

On the morning of Oct. 27, small groups of worshippers gathered in separate rooms of the Tree of Life synagogue for Shabbat morning services. According to authorities, a 46-year-old man entered the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania congregation, allegedly shouted “All Jews must die!” and began shooting.

He would eventually surrender to authorities, but not before killing 11 worshippers. At least six other people were injured, including four officers. The man, who was the sole suspect in the anti-Semitic massacre, was arrested and charged with 29 federal crimes and 26 hate crimes. The shooting was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the U.S.

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania had a news conference in Pittsburgh on the afternoon of the shooting.

“We simply cannot accept this violence as a normal part of American life,” Wolf said. “These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Pennsylvanians and are not who we are as Americans.”

Wolf is only partly correct. This is not who we want to be as Americans. But the harsh truth is that gun violence is far too prevalent to merely be a talking point.

In 2016, 11,004 Americans were killed in gunshot homicides, according to the FBI. That means on average, 30 people were shot dead each day in the U.S. The death rate from homicides in the U.S. is 34 per million people.

That is simply too high. For reference: In Germany, the average death rate from gun homicides was 2.1 per million people from 2007 to 2012, or as likely as dying from a flying object in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

The shooting in Pittsburgh was the 21st deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since 1949, according to CNN. The most fatal mass shootings in modern American history are: Sutherland Springs (2017), Sandy Hook (2012), Virginia Tech (2007), Orlando (2016) and Las Vegas (2017). As college-age students, that means we have been alive for our country’s five worst mass shootings.

The frequency and severity of mass shootings in the U.S. is awful. The locations of these atrocities is even worse.

Among the deadliest: a concert venue, a nightclub, a college campus, an elementary school, a church. These are places you go to have fun, to learn or to worship. They are supposed to act as an escape from the world; somewhere to feel safe, not on edge or vulnerable.

Take Pittsburgh’s shooting for example. These people came to the synagogue as a place of worship. For healing. And prayer. And peace.

But a 46-year-old man with multiple firearms took that away from them.

We can no longer wait around to mourn the next one and expect anything to change. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as incidents where three or more people were shot, regardless if anyone was killed or not. So far there have been 308 days in 2018, and 306 mass shootings.

With midterm elections occurring yesterday, the time is now for improvements to be made in our country’s safety and wellbeing.