Michael A. Cohen

Michael A. Cohen: A mass shooting — just another day in America

FBI investigators work the scene of a shooting in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, where House majority whip Steve Scalise  and others were shot.
FBI investigators work the scene of a shooting in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, where House majority whip Steve Scalise and others were shot. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The tragic mass shooting today in Alexandria, Va., which targeted members of Congress and wounded five people, including Steve Scalise, the number-three ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, is certainly a notable event.

It is, however, not unusual.

Such violence is, in fact, depressingly routine in America.

Yesterday in Baltimore, two people were killed and six others injured in two separate incidents. At one of the shootings there were so many shell casings that “detectives appeared to run out of evidence markers to flag them all, using bits of trash instead.”

On Sunday, nine people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in Chicago, four were shot in Chattanooga, and four more wounded at an apartment complex in Houston. All of the victims were under the age of 16.


A week ago Monday in Orlando, a disgruntled employee who had been fired in April returned to his former workplace and shot five people, including a single father raising two teenage boys as well as a father of four.

Over Memorial Day weekend eight people were murdered in Mississippi in a mass shooting. The victims were a sheriff’s deputy and seven members of the shooter’s family, including an 11-year-old boy.

In Sandy, Utah, a domestic incident led to another mass shooting, leaving three dead, including a kindergartner.

In addition to all this carnage, there were shootings with multiple victims in the past month in Manhattan; New Orleans; St Louis; Fort Worth; Des Moines; Chattanooga; Mesa, Ariz.; and Paterson, N.J. And, as of this writing, four people, including the assailant, had been reported dead after a Wednesday-morning shooting at a UPS facility in San Francisco.

Of course, it was a year ago this month that America was witness to the worst mass shooting in US history — the killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando by a single gunman.


Approximately 90 people are shot and killed in America every single day, and while the media, when it does talk about gun violence, tends to fixate on mass shootings (of which there have been 154 this year alone), many of these deaths will be suicides and will receive no attention. Quite simply, the public health crisis that is US gun violence is a daily occurrence — incessant, pointless, costly, and seemingly unstoppable.

Now one might think that having multiple members of Congress targeted in a mass shooting would be a wake-up call to the nation’s elected leaders that something must be done to end this bloodshed. But of course this is not the first time in recent memory that a member of Congress had been a victim in a mass shooting. In 2010, US Representative Gabby Giffords of Arizona was severely wounded by a lone gunman. Congress did nothing.

Indeed, in the year since the Pulse massacre, Congress has not passed a single bill to limit gun violence. In fact, one of the few pieces of legislation signed by President Trump was the rolling back of an Obama-era regulation that made it more difficult for those suffering severe mental illnesses from buying guns.

One congressman, Chris Collins of New York, said that after today’s shooting he will now carry a handgun with him, which won’t really keep him safer and will do nothing to help the 30,000 of his fellow citizens who are killed every year by a firearm.


The simple reality is that tragedies like the one we saw Wednesday in Virginia will continue, unabated, until Congress and the nation’s state legislatures place common-sense limits on the ability of Americans to arm themselves.

Barring that from happening — and we all know that it won’t — Americans will simply go back to doing what we did before today’s shooting in Virginia: largely ignoring the unceasing carnage of American gun violence.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.