Jacksonville Shooting Emboldens Urgency For Gun Control



By Bernice Chen, Opinions Editor

The competitive video game industry, known as eSports, has gotten more and more popular over the last few years. The appeal of gaming and its ability to let players and spectators have fun and take a break from the harsh pressures of life, attracts hundreds of millions of people across the world. Unfortunately, at a recent gaming event in Florida, gamers and viewers alike were instead caught up in something terrifyingly real – a mass shooting.

This past Sunday, a Madden NFL tournament in Jacksonville was interrupted by sounds of gunfire. The livestream, originally designed to capture the game for online spectators, instead played the sounds of screams and shots to audiences at home and even showed brief video of a red laser dot appearing on one of the players’ chests before the shooting began. The attacker, a man named David Katz, killed two Madden players and injured at least 11 others before taking his own life at the game bar. While Jacksonville police continue to put together the facts for their investigation into this crime, citizens are responding to the tragedy on social media by offering condolences or demanding change.

“Gun violence takes many forms,” the March For Our Lives Campaign said in a statement, “and we must perpetuate the necessary conversations in order to bring peace to our violent nation.”

This shooting is one of the many that have taken place in the United States in recent months. With each tragedy, politicians and civilians try desperately to persuade the government to make some change. To some extent, each and every death pushes more people into realizing why gun control is needed. At the same time, however, those in support of firearms push back and yell distractions, conspiracies, whataboutisms, and empty promises to drown out the opposition. Unfortunately for gun control advocates, the Jacksonville killing is just another situation that will likely end the same way.

David Katz, the culprit, was a 24 year old Madden NFL eSports player, like those he targeted. He had a history of mental health issues, often being admitted to psychiatric facilities and even was hospitalized twice in his teenage years. Although he was given antipsychotic and antidepressant medications by his doctors, other gamers noted that he often acted oddly when playing and rarely conversed with them. Some reports have stated that the motive for his attack was because he lost a game and became enraged.

Despite the fact that gun control remains as crucial of a solution as it did before Jacksonville, gun advocates will try to twist the story by using these facts. They will claim that video games made him forget the difference between what is real or virtual and that these supposedly dangerous, violence-causing games need to be regulated. Politicians will continue to repeat that the person, not the weapons used, shot the victims so legislation should be focused on mental health instead of gun control. The car analogy will make an appearance as well – should we ban cars because crashes happen so often? Of course not. Cars have other purposes besides killing, and governments have enacted laws in the past to make the roads safer from vehicle accidents. The circumstances surrounding the shooter will make it easy for gun-supporting media and politicians to steer the conversation away from gun control and place the blame elsewhere, cutting off the dialogue vital to creating change.

Several places around the United States are still referred to as “gun-free zones,” where possession of a weapon is not allowed on the premises, although some places provide exceptions for law enforcement. The Jacksonville Landing, where the shooting occurred, is one of these places, which is why the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued a statement via social media in response to the shooting criticizing the zones for their lack of safety.

“End gun free zones or have the security in place to keep people safe in them,” spokesperson Dana Loesch tweeted.

Other advocates are leaping onto the “good guy with a gun” train, claiming that if anybody in the audience had a weapon, they would’ve been able to stop the massacre. Yet, this myth, which the NRA has carried on for several years, has often been disproved. For example, last year, in the shooting at El Centro College, not even the 100 or more police officers or other armed civilians present were able to stop the gunman, and only added to confusion and panic in the crowd. Even in the recent Parkland incident, the deputy at the scene remained outside of the school and didn’t go in to confront the shooter, even though officer policy required him to.

The NRA profits off each shooting that happens by pushing messages like these and convincing Americans that guns are the most effective way to combat shootings. Contributions, revenue, and membership go through the roof, so they continue to respond to each tragedy and lobby for legislation protecting gun use. Because this Jacksonville shooting happened when no “good guy with a gun” made an appearance, due to the gun-free zone rule, this will just become another narrative for the NRA to spin with their what-ifs about civilians equipped with firearms.

In the big picture, the Jacksonville shooting also contributes to one of the worst progressions overtaking the United States: desensitization to gun violence. Events similar to this one have taken place so often that Americans are starting to get used to hearing about them on the news, even if they don’t realize it. Finding out that a massacre occurred is no longer a huge surprise for anybody anymore because of the current increase in frequency of these attacks. If this carries on, a disastrous point may be reached where people simply accept mass shootings as another facet of life. Voters will care less and less about the urgency of enacting gun laws, and advocacy for gun control will drop.

There’s no guarantee about how far away this is, but America is becoming steadily more disinterested with tragedies like Jacksonville. The truth still remains that gun control is necessary. If we want to lessen the rate of firearm-related massacres across the country, then politicians and citizens, whether Democratic or Republican, need to pull together, focus on gun control, and encourage legislation.