The call came from the UCLA campus just before 10 a.m. – someone had opened fire with a gun. “Active shooter,” and the warning went out for those on campus to shelter in place. Where was it? The Engineering 4 building.
Police arrived in waves, along with firefighters and other emergency responders. The Los Angeles Police Department went on citywide tactical alert, the better to marshal resources, as television showed students being escorted to safety, hands on their heads, by officers in tactical gear.
And then the wait. What had happened? Was there still someone with a gun? Was it still dangerous? Was this going to be another horrific scene of of violence, like that at Umpqua Community College in Oregon in October?
But there were no more bullets. No confirmed sightings of a man with a gun still at his deadly work. Something less dramatic, apparently, had occurred, something smaller in scope than the mass shootings we’ve become accustomed to.
The massive police and emergency response proved unnecessary, but there was no way the LAPD could have known that when the panicked call came in. And this is where we are – the anticipation that a shooting on a college campus was going to turn out to be a mass tragedy, and that a major city’s law enforcement response is geared up for that eventuality.
In this case, it was only two dead. Murder-suicide in a small office. And so America shrugs. Just another incident in the daily parade of gun violence that defines contemporary America. And so two families, and two circles of friends, and a community of students and faculty are left to their grief, and their confusion, and maybe a touch more fear than usual at the recognition that violence can and will strike so close to home.
Ultimately, we should be glad this was a tragedy for fewer people than feared when the phrase “campus shooting” first popped up on screens. But that society will just shrug this off is tragic in its own way. That the nation accepts gun violence as commonplace, as a reasonable trade-off for some romanticized view of every gun owner as a soldier against tyranny, is the continuing tragedy.
And so the deaths will mount.
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