Opinion: A thwarted Dallas shooting goes viral. If only all gun violence got the same attention


It’s unknown what exactly was in the man’s mind as he approached the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas on Monday, but his intent was easy to read.

Clad in tactical gear and carrying an assault-style rifle and at least five 30-round magazines, the man — whom police identified as Brian Isaack Clyde — started shooting as he neared the entrance, then cut and ran when security officers returned fire. He collapsed, mortally wounded, in a parking lot across the street.

Police have yet to offer a motive, but social media posts shortly before the attack offer some framework.


As NPR reported, a since-removed June 9 video post on his Facebook page shows Clyde, an Army veteran and recent community college graduate, standing in a darkened room with a military-style weapon. He mentions a coming “storm,” then says, “I’m not without defense.” In a post Saturday he said he “decided to finish getting all of my mags. 2 40 rounders and 8 30 rounders total.”

Maybe if we all wore body cams, more people would start demanding action.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Clyde also had shared memes tied to the misogynistic “incel” subculture, or “involuntary celibates” — socially isolated men who blame women for their inability to enter into romantic relationships.

A similar catalyst reportedly led a male driver to mow down 23 people on a Toronto sidewalk last year, killing 10 of them. Among other incidents, it was also part of the motive for Elliot Rodger when he went on a rampage in Isla Vista near Santa Barbara in 2014, killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others before he killed himself.

In a telling moment for our current culture, the Dallas shootout seems to have resonated widely not because of the nature of the incident, but because of a video of the encounter taken by chance from several stories above, and a single still photograph by Dallas Morning News photographer Tom Fox, who happened to be at the courthouse on another assignment at the time.

Videos and still images are important, of course, but focusing on them obscures the tragedy that nearly occurred. Had Clyde entered the federal building, gun blazing, he in all likelihood would have committed yet another mass killing.


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So Clyde missed adding to a statistical reality. At least 17 times this year, gunmen have shot to death at least four people in single incidents, according to the online Mass Shooting Tracker.

That carnage is a subset of mass shootings in general, defined as at least four people wounded in a single incident. So far this year, there have been at least 199 such acts of violence, which killed 231 people and wounded 726 others.

We’re not even halfway through the year, but the tally to date is similar to last year. And the year before.

And these mass shootings are only a sliver of our carnage. The Gun Violence Archive reports that so far this year firearms have been used to kill 6,532 people and wound an additional 12,618. And that doesn’t include suicides, which in recent years have accounted for about 60% of annual gun deaths.

But most of that violence doesn’t get captured on video. Nor do the domestic attacks that account for about half of mass shootings, and that tend to get little notice beyond their local communities.

Out of sight, out of mind, it seems.

Maybe if we all wore body cams, more people would start demanding action.