Tragedies like these have seem to have become a week­ly occur­rence. We are so desen­si­tized to vio­lence now that we are not as shocked as we all should be when more lives are end­ed by sense­less gun vio­lence:

As throngs of patrons strolled and browsed at the Mall in Colum­bia on a gray, cold Sat­ur­day, shot­gun blasts rang out and bod­ies fell as a famil­iar tragedy — homi­ci­dal luna­cy in a crowd­ed pub­lic place — brought ter­ror to a sub­ur­ban Mary­land shop­ping complex.

It hap­pened just after 11 a.m., about 25 miles north­east of Wash­ing­ton [D.C.]. A gun­man opened fire on the mall’s sec­ond lev­el, killing two employ­ees of Zumiez, a cloth­ing store for skate­board­ers and snow­board­ers, Howard Coun­ty police said.

Min­utes lat­er, when offi­cers arrived, they found the shoot­er dead of an appar­ent­ly self-inflict­ed wound.

No home, work­place, church, school, mall, or gath­er­ing place is safe in a soci­ety where peo­ple who should not pos­sess a firearm can eas­i­ly get one and unleash ter­ror on a com­mu­ni­ty like Colum­bia, Maryland.

Oth­er coun­tries have imposed sen­si­ble restric­tions, includ­ing uni­ver­sal back­ground checks, on gun sales and gun own­er­ship. We haven’t, part­ly because polit­i­cal­ly pow­er­ful pro-gun orga­ni­za­tions like the NRA oppose tak­ing any steps that would make safe firearms own­er­ship a strict norm in our soci­ety, as opposed to just best prac­tices that gun man­u­fac­tur­ers, gun deal­ers, and gun own­ers are free to ignore.

The NRA and their ilk speak about the Sec­ond Amend­ment with such rev­er­ence, it makes us won­der if they are at all acquaint­ed with the First. Or the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, in which our founders talked about the inher­ent and unalien­able rights, chiefly the preser­va­tion of life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.

Zumiez employ­ees Bri­an­na Ben­lo­lo and Tyler John­son no longer have their lives,  their lib­er­ty, or the chance to be hap­py. They were killed in the blink of an eye by bul­lets fired from the gun of a deranged indi­vid­ual who ulti­mate­ly turned his gun on him­self after fir­ing on them and oth­ers. Both Bri­an­na and Tyler were in their twen­ties. Both had so much to look for­ward to, and to do.

Trag­i­cal­ly, now they’re gone. Their fam­i­lies will deal with the pain of their slay­ing for the rest of their lives, like the fam­i­lies of the Auro­ra and New­town mas­sacres, or the Oak Creek and Tuc­son shoot­ings, or the thou­sands of oth­er vic­tims of gun vio­lence over the last decade. Things are get­ting worse, not bet­ter, as NPR report­ed a few days ago: there has been a sharp rise in the num­ber of mass shoot­ings in the Unit­ed States since Barack Oba­ma and Joe Biden were elected.

The Pres­i­dent and Vice Pres­i­dent are among those who wants to take action, but the very sen­si­ble and extreme­ly basic reforms they have pro­posed at the fed­er­al lev­el have been stymied by our cur­rent do-noth­ing Con­gress, par­tic­u­lar­ly House and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, who refuse to dis­obey their NRA masters.

This fail­ure to act is unac­cept­able, and we ought to be vocal in let­ting our elect­ed lead­ers know that the sta­tus quo is unten­able. Here in Wash­ing­ton, we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make change for the bet­ter by pass­ing Ini­tia­tive 594, which would require uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on gun sales. I‑594 was cer­ti­fied by the Sec­re­tary of State this past week and is now before the Leg­is­la­ture. We urge the House and the Sen­ate to pass it straight­away, and to reject its evil cousin, I‑591, which is backed by the uncom­pro­mis­ing gun lob­by and zeal­ous gun enthusiasts.

We send our deep­est con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of Bri­an­na and Tyler in the wake of today’s tragedy, as well as to long­time NPI sup­port­er Tom Cam­pi­on, cofounder and chair­man of Zumiez, Zumiez CEO Rick Brooks, and all Zumiez employ­ees, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who worked with Bri­an­na and Tyler at the Colum­bia, Mary­land store.

All of them will be in our thoughts and prayers tonight and in the days to come.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

2 replies on “More senseless gun violence claims the lives of two young employees of Zumiez”

  1. There was a study I read about in my younger days.. decades ago, about the rela­tion­ship between sui­cide, mur­der and dif­fer­ent social groups and countries.
    The study demon­strat­ed that where sui­cide was “forced” down mur­der went up, and vise versa.
    Mur­der and sui­cide are the sym­tom not the desease, guns are just one of many tools. The old tool used by such sick­ly fer­al minds for mass mur­der in the old days was fire.
    Due to the ram­pant and overt hoplo­pho­bia in the media they now have a new “cool/popular” method.

Comments are closed.