Oliver: Another mass shooting? Shocking but not surprising

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

The headline was simple and gut-wrenching: “Never here in Aurora.”

An employee Friday had entered his workplace, the Henry Pratt Co. plant in Aurora, with a gun. Gary Martin, 45, was going to be fired that day, company officials said.

When the shooting stopped, five co-workers were dead and five police officers were wounded. Killed at the plant were Clayton Parks, 32, of Elgin; Trevor Wehner, 21, of Sheridan; Russell Beyer, 47, of Yorkville; Vicente Juarez, 54, of Oswego; and Josh Pinkard, 37, of Oswego.

Even more heart-wrenching is the fact that it was Wehner’s first day as an intern in the human resources department at Henry Pratt. He was a student at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Martin, police said, was killed in a shootout.

All of this is shocking and heartbreaking. However, what it is not is surprising.
The storyline is all too familiar in the U.S.

Aurora, Illinois, can be added to the long and growing list of sites of mass shootings.

It joins Aurora, Colorado, as yet another place that will live in infamy. Remember how horrified we were when a gunman entered the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” and 12 people were killed in July 2012?

How many of these rampages have we had to endure since April 1999, when 13 died in Littleton, Colorado, at Columbine High School? For some of us, that’s the sad beginning of an endless stream of tragedies.

How about since the horror in Newtown, Connecticut, where 27 people died, 20 of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School?

Try more than 1,900. In those shootings, more than 2,300 people have died.

Maybe part of the problem is that we’ve become so numb to these shootings that they don’t even register anymore. Or maybe we are trying so hard to get on with our own lives that we avoid thinking about it. That way, we don’t have to face the fact that these things can happen anywhere.

Since 1999, we’ve seen mass shootings at high schools. Grade schools. Places of worship. Hotels. Workplaces. Hospitals. Post offices. Universities. Malls. City council meetings. Nursing homes. Movie theaters. Military bases. Beaches. Cafes. Military recruitment centers. Night clubs. Airports. Music festivals. And on and on.

It’s easy to lose track.

We live in a society that now has to conduct informational sessions to prepare people for what to do if someone starts shooting. In fact, there’s a training session this week at an assisted-living facility in Libertyville.

Our children have to learn how to shelter in place in school in the event of an active shooter. In simpler times, we just had tornado and fire drills.

Unfortunately, hope alone will not stop the next mass shooting from happening. After all, haven’t we tried that more than 1,900 times? And we’re still having the same reaction.

Oh, there will be the obligatory debate about background checks and firearm owner’s identification cards. There will be calls to enforce the laws on the books and even more calls for new gun controls.

In the end, however, it more than likely will be more of the status quo.

Forgive my cynicism, but the Sandy Hook shooting absolutely broke me. If the deaths of innocent first-graders aren’t enough to ignite real change, I fear that nothing will.

But please, please prove me wrong.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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