Statements from public officials following Sunday morning's mass shooting in St. Paul are a study in futility. A member of Congress declared her determination that such an event must never be allowed to happen again. The mayor asserted that his city could never accept this sort of violence. Police described the scene as a hell they had never witnessed in St. Paul before.
In the aftermath of the shootout at the Seventh Street Truck Park, those statements are perfectly reasonable but patently predictable — and, sad to say, useless. "Never again" and "never before" are sentiments that will bring zero comfort to the family and friends of Marquisha Wiley, the young veterinary technician who died in the shooting.
Her death is deplorable and tragic, and no amount of thoughts-and-prayers posts on social media or official expressions of concern will help much. To say that we have never seen such violence before is to forget the Pulse nightclub and Sandy Hook Elementary. To say that we must never allow it again is to suggest that this time we have seen the light — as if the light were not brilliantly clear after Mandalay Bay, or Parkland, or any of the more recent massacres in our country.
Mass shootings declined briefly at the start of the pandemic, but they came back with a vengeance and are now occurring more frequently than before. Wiley joins a virtually endless list of victims. Their silence speaks loudly of a system that is utterly broken.
It will be some time before the circumstances that led to Wiley's death and the wounding of 14 or more other people become clear. Investigators promise to identify those responsible and ensure accountability. Police have arrested three suspects among the wounded, an encouraging sign. We have no doubt that St. Paul police, overburdened though they are, will get to the bottom of this particular atrocity.
In the meantime, it would be better not to hear speculation like that offered by Dave Cossetta, owner of the popular restaurant that bears his family's name. He said crime in the area had increased lately thanks to the presence of a nearby homeless shelter. He's got every right to sound the alarm about increasing crime in his neighborhood, but comments like this only inflame resentments against poor people.
The shootout on West Seventh Street is part of a terrible national problem. There may be local ways to tinker at its edges, with better security at nightclubs or other local initiatives. But nothing will truly help until there is a sensible national response — better still, a portfolio of responses — to the epidemic of gun violence.