Aug 4, 2019

Axios AM

1 big thing: Mass murder in America
Melody Stout, Hannah Payan, Aaliyah Alba, Sherie Gramlich and Laura Barrios comfort each other during a vigil last night in El Paso. Photo: John Locher/AP

Less than 13 hours after a mass shooting during back-to-school shopping left 20 dead in El Paso, 9 people were killed overnight in Dayton, Ohio, in a second mass shooting.

  • Bulletin: Authorities say the suspected Ohio shooter was wearing body armor and had extra magazines. (AP)

CNN's banner tells the story of a weekend that no one will want to remember, but that we can't forget: "13 hours of bloodshed: Two mass shootings leave 29 dead."

  • The El Paso massacre ranks 8th in deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. (See the list.)

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said during a televised briefing that the shooting at a Walmart may have been a hate crime.

  • A racist, anti-immigrant screedcomplaining of a "Hispanic invasion of Texas" — was posted online shortly before the shooting.
  • Authorities suspect that it was written by the 21-year-old man they arrested at the scene, nine hours and 650 miles from his home in Allen, Texas.
  • The FBI has opened a domestic terrorism investigation, CNN reported.

The Dayton shooting was the 22nd mass killing in the United States in 2019, according to an AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database.

  • The project tracks all U.S. homicides involving four or more people killed — not including the offender — over a short period of time.
  • The first 20 mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 claimed 96 lives.
  • A week ago today, a 19-year-old gunman killed three people, including two children, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California.

The sad facts on the twin tragedies, via AP:

In Texas, a gunman armed with a rifle opened fire in a shopping area packed with thousands of people, leaving 20 dead and more than two dozen injured.

  • El Paso police provided updates about the shooting in English and Spanish in the largely Latino city. The shopping area is about 5 miles from the main border checkpoint with its sister city, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
  • "The city has had a binational feel ... and has been in the national spotlight for months," the N.Y. Times points out. "Thousands of Central American families have flooded the city and surrounding areas seeking asylum, overwhelming the Border Patrol and nonprofit groups working with immigrants."
  • Get the latest. ... The story in photos.
Authorities work the scene in Dayton. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

In western Ohio, Dayton police tweeted that an active shooter situation began in the Oregon District, a historic neighborhood at 1 a.m., but officers nearby were able to "put an end to it quickly."

  • Nine were killed and at least 16 others were taken to hospitals.
  • Police said the suspect was shot to death by responding officers.
  • The Oregon District is described by police as a safe part of downtown — home to entertainment options, including bars, restaurants and theaters.
  • Get the latest.
2. The 1 stat about guns

International research has found that U.S. mass shootings cannot be explained by a violent culture, racial divisions or mental health, the N.Y. Times' Max Fisher and Josh Keller write in "The Interpreter" column.

  • It's simply the "astronomical number of guns."
  • "The United States has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012."
  • "No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters" — the U.S. is way worse than the Philippines, Russia, China or India.

A back-to-school Saturday in America ...

Joel Angel Juarez/AFP/Getty Images
Joel Angel Juarez/AFP/Getty Images
Joel Angel Juarez/AFP/Getty Images
3. What you can/must do
People hold hands during a vigil at St. Pius X Church in El Paso. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

"See something, say something" is going online.

Katherine Schweit, a former FBI agent who was in charge of the active-shooter program, told me in a phone interview that mass shooters frequently were surrounded by people who saw danger signs in person or online.

  • Why it matters: FBI behavioral research has found that 80-90% of mass shooters "leaked" warning signs: "Watch out on Tuesday."

"Law enforcement is likely to be the last to hear," said Schweit, now a workplace-violence consultant.

  • "It's not uncommon when we interview people for them to say: 'He's always been like that, but he's never done anything like this before.'"

"The biggest ace in the hole we have for prevention is people listening to the people around them," she added.

  • "Employees and friends need to report concerns not because they want to get them in trouble, but because they want to help them out."

Retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA undercover officer, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that threats are often "shared on social media in a way that can help tip and cue federal law enforcement":

Screenshot it.  If you're looking at it on your phone, screenshot it, and then do a search for [your] police department. There's guaranteed to be an e-mail where you can send these kinds of things and then attach that screenshot to an email and send it to local police.
You can actually find the FBI's phone number in the phonebook. I don't know if people still use phonebooks, but that is something you can go on the internet and find that as well.
4. Abrupt turn for America's political conversation
El Paso shoppers exit with their hands up. Photo: Jorge Salgado/Reuters

Saturday's shooting was personal for El Paso native Beto O'Rourke, who suspended campaigning to fly home and "be with my family and be with my hometown," AP reports:

  • O'Rourke appeared shaken as he told a union forum in Vegas that he'd heard early reports that the shooter might have had a military-style weapon, saying the country needs to "keep that (expletive) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities."

Democratic candidates went online, onstage and on cable to express outrage and call for new gun limits, per AP:

  • Joe Biden said he tried to call O'Rourke and told reporters: "Enough is enough. ... This is a sickness."
  • Elizabeth Warren tweeted: "We must act now to end our country's gun violence epidemic."
  • Bernie Sanders: "All over the world, people are looking at the United States and wondering what is going on? What is the mental health situation in America?"
  • Pete Buttigieg: "We are the only country in the world with more guns than people."
  • Kamala Harris promised to use executive action to impose gun control in her first 100 days.

President Trump conveyed his initial reaction on Twitter, writing that the shooting was "terrible" and that he was in close consultation with state officials.

  • He turned to other topics, tweeting a note of encouragement to UFC fighter Colby Covington, a Trump supporter, and retweeting two messages that furthered his argument that African Americans had flourished under his administration.
  • Later, Trump tweeted condolences: "Today's shooting in El Paso, Texas was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice."

What they're saying.

5. Another eroding stability
Cover photo: Katy Grannan for The New York Times

In "Megafire," the cover story of today's N.Y Times Magazine, Jon Mooallem goes dystopian on last fall's Camp Fire, which ravaged Paradise and was the deadliest wildfire in California history:

In a matter of hours, the town’s roads were swamped, its emergency plans outstripped. Nine of every 10 homes were destroyed and at least 85 people were dead. Many were elderly, some were incinerated in their cars while trying to flee and others apparently never made it that far.
It was all more evidence that the natural world was warping, outpacing our capacity to prepare for, or even conceive of, the magnitude of disaster that such a disordered earth can produce.
We live with an unspoken assumption that the planet is generally survivable, that its tantrums are infrequent and, while menacing, can be plotted along some hazy, existentially tolerable bell curve.
But the stability that American society was built around for generations appears to be eroding. That stability was always an illusion; wherever you live, you live with risk — just at some emotional and cognitive remove.
Now, those risks are ratcheting up. Nature is increasingly finding a foothold in the unimaginable: what’s not just unprecedented but also hopelessly far beyond what we’ve seen. This is a realm beyond disaster, where catastrophes live.

Keep reading.

6. 1 car thing
Photo: Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Owners from around the world show off their Citroën 2CV cars during an event in Samobor, Croatia, marking the 100th anniversary of the French carmaker.

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