In America's other pandemic, the dying never stops

In America's other pandemic, the dying never stops

Posted: Jul 6, 2021 11:40 AM
Updated: Jul 6, 2021 11:40 AM

In America's other pandemic, the dying never stops.

At least 150 people were killed on the long Independence Day weekend in more than 400 shooting incidents, as violence that coincided with the reopening of major cities intensifies. The data, collected by CNN reporters and the Gun Violence Archive, covers the 72-hour period from Friday through Sunday, and the terrible toll of America's birthday weekend is almost certain to rise.

In separate incidents this weekend, a golf pro was shot dead on a green at his country club in Georgia. Eight people were wounded after an argument sparked a shooting at a car wash in Texas. Two people died in a park in Cincinnati, Ohio. No place is off limits -- there have been shootings at grocery stores and at workplaces. Since the year began, more than 22,500 Americans have died in violent gun incidents, including 10,000 from homicides and 12,000 from suicides, the Gun Violence Archive says.

This is not just the summer of liberation from Covid-19. It's also the summer of gun violence.

Generally, US crime rates have fallen in recent years — and cities like New York are far safer than they were in the 1980s, for instance. But fears of the bad old days are beginning to come back. So far this year, gun violence in Gotham has surged 40% over the same period in 2020, with 767 shootings and 885 victims. And 2020 itself was a bad year.

What unleashed this outburst of horror? The pandemic's economic and human toll has destabilized communities and increased criminal activity in some areas. There's also talk that months of lockdown may have spiked mental health issues and pent-up rage that all too easily spills into violence on the streets. Every explanation is exacerbated by the fact that the United States is awash in guns. Firearms sales spiked during the pandemic and are now at record levels — so much so, there's an ammunition shortage.

President Joe Biden has pleaded with lawmakers to do something, anything, to stop the shootings. But nothing is getting done. Lawmakers can't even agree on minor reforms expanding background checks for some gun purchases. The right to bear arms is often seen as a foundational principle of US conservatism, so Republicans almost always block meaningful firearms controls -- even if they are far from overturning that constitutional right.

In fact, many conservatives, who blame the spate of killings on Democrats defunding police budgets, argue that even more guns are needed so that more Americans can protect themselves from one another.

Postcard from Surfside

"I'm standing in front of a memorial wall covered with photographs of people missing from the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building. Their smiling photos are an eerie contrast to the scene of the tragic collapse itself, where the muggy air is thick with dust from the debris site and with the scent of well-wishers' flowers withering after days in the sun.

"It's been more than a week since the building collapsed. No one has been pulled out alive since then, despite the constant sound of heavy equipment sifting through the rubble. Many of the people who stop by to pay their respects are wearing glasses to mask their swollen eyes. Moshe Candiotti -- a resident of condo 407, who ran for his life when one side of the building crumbled -- says the site fills him with mixed emotions; he's grateful to be alive, but sad for his neighbors who perished.

"Candiotti points out that the scene has changed overnight. The portion of the building where he lived, which had been left standing after the collapse, was demolished on Sunday night, in order to ensure the safety of rescue workers in its shadow. Until yesterday, beyond the memorial wall, we could see the high-rise condo building brushing the heavens. Today, only two cranes rise from the rubble that was his home address, both flying American flags.

"Of all the money, jewelry and possessions he lost, Candiotti says, there is only one thing he wishes he could retrieve from under the tons of broken concrete and steel: a photograph of his mother. His voice takes an emotional turn as he describes looking at his mother's photo every morning, a habit that he says once energized him. The pain is palpable here in Surfside as the known death count rises. More than a hundred people are still unaccounted for." -- CNN's Rosa Flores writes to Meanwhile from Surfside, Florida

The-CNN-Wire
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