We probably won’t remember this next week.
The circumstances of the shooting that took the lives of 12 people in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night were not unique. The body count was not uncommonly high. The victims were not heartbreakingly young, or devastatingly old.
It’s at once unconscionable and indisputable: America is so inured to gun violence that even massacres have become mundane.
And so the list we keep in our heads and recite like a poem every time another gunman opens fire in a crowd — Parkland, Newtown, Las Vegas, Orlando — won’t make room for Thousand Oaks. Our lists do not make room for Melcroft, Pa., where four were killed at a car wash, or even, confoundingly, for Santa Fe, Texas, where 10 were killed at a high school.
The honest and painful truth is that come next week or next month or next year, most of us will forget Thousand Oaks, too.
But what about those who remember?
On Thursday, as police in California were picking through the bar-turned-battleground where a man dressed in black gunned down revelers during a weekly college night, Lucy McBath was cementing victory in her congressional race in Georgia after her opponent conceded.
And she remembers.
A career flight attendant, McBath lost her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, to gun violence in 2012, when he was shot dead at a Florida gas station after an argument about loud music. His death was one of nearly 9,000 gun homicides that year; the 45-year-old man who murdered him was locked up for life.
That could have been the end of it. The list of gun deaths is too long for many names to stand out. But Lucy McBath is what happens when you remember.
“I lost my son Jordan, but I am still his mother,” McBath said in a campaign video. “And I still continue to mother him by making sure that I preserve the lives of other children like him.”
Around the country this week, candidates for Congress who vowed to make gun safety a priority won in places you might not expect.
Jennifer Wexton in Virginia. Jason Crow in Colorado. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in Texas.
In Arizona, Ann Kirkpatrick was once a vocal defender of the National Rifle Association. Shooting after shooting changed her mind. She was elected to Congress this year on a platform that included an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.
Tim Walz, another onetime NRA favorite, was just elected governor of Minnesota behind a message that included a stern rebuke of the NRA. Last year, Walz gave away every dollar the group had ever donated to him.
That’s what happens when you remember.
Though they are all Democrats, they are not in lockstep on every issue, and gun violence is naturally not the only issue these new leaders care about. Kirkpatrick — a gun owner herself — is focused on keeping firearms out of the hands of people convicted of domestic violence and ending the federal ban on funding gun violence research. McBath’s campaign, in a district Newt Gingrich once represented, dealt directly with issues of racial justice and confronted the kinds of gun violence that kill many more in a year than all of the country’s massacres combined.
But each was elected at least in part because they will remember the tragedies we so quickly forget: Rancho Tehama and Bakersfield. Jordan Davis and Thousand Oaks.