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Lock and load

Mass shooting phenomenon ricochets in College Station

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 01:11

Gun

Photo Illustration by Roger Zhang


The first Code Maroon reached the backlit phones and computer screens of students and faculty at

12:29 p.m. on Aug. 13. By then, the heavy chorus of weapon fire was already echoing across Fidelity Drive, less than half a mile from the intersection of George Bush Drive and Wellborn Road.At the end of the bloody half-hour firefight, three people were dead, including Constable Brian Bachman, civilian Chris Northcliff and shooter Thomas Caffall.

Caffall wasn’t the only headline in the bloody summer of 2012. The nation looked on in horror at Aurora, Colo., where James Holmes strolled into a movie theater with an M&P15 assault rifle and left 12 moviegoers dead and 58 wounded in his wake. In quick succession came the shootings at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, the Empire State Building and the Minneapolis sign

manufacturing plant.

For students, faculty, staff and community members, it would have been all too easy to turn off the evening news and brush away the sting felt by the tragedy. However, Caffall wrenched away any harbored hope of ignoring the issue of guns and mass shootings in this country.

On that day, Bachmann approached the house of Caffall at the 200 block of Fidelity Drive a few minutes after noon, in order to serve an eviction notice. Caffall had lost his job some months ago and told family members he planned never to work again. After a tense conversation on Caffall’s front porch, the situation futher escalated when

Caffall produced a firearm and opened fire.

The ensuing firefight between law enforcement, first responders and Caffall resulted in more than 100 discharged rounds. Caffall’s death brought an end to the chaos, but not before the deaths of Bachmann and Northcliff, and survivor Barbara Holdsworth suffering critical injuries. The flurry of bullets and sirens ended with three dead and a community altered. So extensive and sprawling was the area canvassed by the shooting that Lt. Allan Baron of the University Police Department said the investigation is still ongoing.

In a statement released after the shooting, University President R. Bowen Loftin said the incident left the University deeply saddened.

“This is a sad day in the Bryan-College Station community,” Loftin said. “My thoughts and prayers, as well I am sure of the entire Aggie community, go out to the families and close friends of those who died so tragically, those who were injured and anyone else personally impacted by this senseless act of violence.”

No matter a person’s political affiliation, a level of vitriol is released into the air any time the hot-button subject of firearm rights is broached. With each camp deeply entrenched in their own opinion, the polarizing nature of the debate guarantees a cultural stalemate. Neither side of the fence has anything in mind other than the protection of American citizens. But how should a modern America approach its guns?

Caffall in context

Placing A&M within a larger context of other recent American shootings is a tender, layered matter. Amid the similarities between the local shooting and other high-profile shootings, the most obvious point may be the most significantly binding: legally obtained firearms were employed in the shooting and killing of innocents. The scope may not be as large as Aurora — though it is impossible to quantify the pain inflicted in such incidents.

FBI crime classification reports define a mass murderer as an individual who kills four or more people, not including himself, in a single incident. But there is a similar degree of senselessness in the act. Because Caffall was killed in the shootout and unable to stand trial, it is impossible to determine if the act was premeditated or one of impulse.

Grouped in this way, these

headline-making shootings between Aurora on July 20 and Minneapolis on Sept. 27 have a staggering effect.

But has there been a marked, measurable increase in these shootings? Or, the nation’s attention having collectively turned to the subject after Aurora, is this presumed spike a case of heightened sensitivity and alertness to the matter?

James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University, is known as “The Dean of Death” for his extensive research on mass murders. Fox, in a recent blog post published on boston.com, contends that though no one can deny that the summer of 2012 has seemed especially horrific, the not-so-tiny flaw in all of these theories for the increase in mass shootings is that mass shootings have not increased in number or in overall body count, at least not over the past several decades.

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