By Courtney Baker
Mainstream media, such as the New York Times, should offer solutions rather than doubling down on language conveying helplessness while reporting on mass violence. This opinion piece is in response to the Jan. 24 version of the New York Times article, “California Mass Shootings: Half Moon Bay Killings Add to State’s Grim Toll of Gun Violence”. Note that the original Times article has been updated since the writing of this opinion editorial.
The article delves into two California shootings that occurred within 72 hours of each other: one on Saturday, Jan. 21 in Monterey Park, and the second on Monday, Jan. 23 in Half Moon Bay. It covers the first shooting, moves onto the second shooting, jumps to California officials’ response, then to gun control issues before returning to details of the first shooting. Finally, it ends with an outline of eight mass killings that have happened at the hands of gun violence “recently.”
The article does a great job of distinctly outlining the events of both shootings, despite the startling similarities in the profiling and unknown motives of the suspects. I believe it does this in order to delve into the history, detail, and current state of the neighborhoods in which both tragedies occurred. A story was created – you could clearly picture the old ballroom dance studios catering to an older Asian community in Monterey Park as easily as you can imagine the slow-paced, agricultural town on Half Moon Bay that is a sanctuary nestled in between tech-dominated cities of the Bay Area. By creating distinct portraits for their readers, it allowed for the crimes to not get confused as the article progressed.
After outlining the shootings themselves, the article then focused on more broad topics of gun laws in California. Whether the gun used in the Monterey Park shooting was legal, as it was able to hold more than ten rounds, came into question. The article then quotes different sources that lead readers to an “it’s illegal but also sometimes not” answer which made me feel as if this portion of the article was filler. The article divulges that “the complexity of California’s gun control laws and when they went into effect make determining the legality of any given person’s possession of weapons difficult to resolve.” It also quotes one source who states , “We have no right to be surprised when these things happen.” As the article inched toward a conclusion, it continued to offer little solace to distraught readers. One final frustration – the absolute final words are the most discerning: a list of eight recent shootings. Ending on such a hopeless note crystallizes the seemingly gridlocked, murky gun laws, leaving the reader feeling helpless and frustrated about the rampant mass violence in our country.
If the article’s last points were mirroring a country that is frustrated, unsure, and
mostly directionless on how to create change in this area, I suppose this portion was not “filler”,
but instead some sort of meta-commentary on our nation’s overall psyche at this moment. The article leaves us with no clear answers, no motive of the shooters, and a reminder of devastation that gun laws do not equal clear restrictions in America. However, maybe asking if the gun was legal with no definitive conclusion was not a productive way to end this story. The article could’ve asked us something different. Perhaps it could have ended with a call-to-action – giving its readers something to hold onto during a terrifying time, or at least something more profound to think about other than our muddled firearm laws and a reminder of the tragedies with which we are, unfortunately, already all too familiar.