Joe Biden’s presidency gave many hopes for extensive change to occur; already we have seen the country slowly but surely returning to normalcy with the fairly successful vaccine rollout. However, at the same time, there has been a surge in tragic events that have transpired in the past few weeks. Multiple mass shootings have occurred all over the country, along with multiple instances of police brutality. As a result, these events unfortunately maintain the many systemic problems that have plagued this country since before the pandemic.
The Atlanta spa shooting was the first mass shooting that sparked major headlines this year. Eight people were killed, with six of them being women of Asian descent. And although the shooter responsible claimed his motive was due to his alleged sex addiction, it is clear that this tragedy was a hate crime, given the anti-Asian sentiments that have been on the rise due to the pandemic. In truth, the shootings that took place shed light on the alarming rise of gun violence and discrimination that has always been present in this country.
Unfortunately, only six days later, another mass shooting took place at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado where 10 people were killed. The gunman also purchased his firearms legally. While we do not currently have a clear motive for the shootings, sources claim that the suspect’s Facebook page displayed expressions of paranoia and beliefs of being targeted for racism and Islamophobia. This tragedy not only adds to the long list of gun violence this year, but it also displays another issue that has failed to be addressed: mental health. The country is still in dire need of gun reform that prohibits individuals with mental illnesses from ever obtaining a firearm.
At the time of writing, another mass shooting took place at a FedEx ground facility in Indianapolis, where a former employee shot and killed eight people and wounded several others. The shooter also purchased his gun legally and had also appeared in FBI reports prior to the shooting. A prior investigation had placed the suspect in temporary mental health care, and while there was no evidence of extremism, weapons were still confiscated from his home. These three major shootings occurred within a span of a month and are only compounded by more tragedies.
Systemic issues unfortunately have risen on the other side of the law as well. When police tried to detain 20-year-old Daunte Wright for an outstanding warrant, he was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop. Officer Kim Potter’s murder of Wright was allegedly accidental, with reports and bodycam footage showing her intent to grab her taser. The shooting is especially notable with George Floyd’s murder occurring only a year earlier. Protests have similarly emerged with some turning violent, especially in light of recent events.
Adam Toledo, aged 13, was another victim of a fatal police shooting. Bodycam footage shows a police officer chasing Toledo down an alleyway before yelling at him to stop. Toledo was shot despite the fact that the video showed him raising his hands in the air. Reform is not limited to the wrong side of the law as both of these recent tragedies raise concerns over police conduct and the sudden rise in violence caused by law enforcement. The rise in gun violence seems to parallel the rise in police brutality cases, yet legislation and reforms to remedy these issues seem to never come.
All of these terrible events make it quite clear that mass reforms are needed in order to solve these systemic problems. Of course, it was not like these issues weren’t occurring in some sort of frequency throughout the pandemic and, of course, before it. However, it’s clear that the pace of these occurrences is picking up immensely with the slow reopening of the country. At this rate, we are more likely to return to a reopened America that’s not so different at all from the America we knew before.