This time, the dead included a 6-year-old boy. Stephen Romero, a youngster with a bright smile who was just weeks away from entering first grade, was shot and killed while enjoying a summer day at an outdoor festival.
Two other festivalgoers, aged 13 and 20, were also gunned down Sunday at the annual Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif. Twelve more were injured, some already home and safe with their families, others still clinging to life in the hospital. The alleged shooter, Santino William Legan, 19, reportedly said he opened fire because he was “really angry.’’ He also died when police arrived in minutes and returned fire.
These types of horrific shootings happen so often in America that it’s possible to let them pass without reflection. But that shouldn’t happen. Americans should not allow the frequency of brutal mass shootings to lull them into a sense of numb acceptance.
Like many who are heartbroken and angry about the latest senseless killing, we grasp for words that will prompt urgent action. Too often we’re stuck with “What more can be said to make a difference?” “What will it take to reverse the trend?” And “How many more must die before our society, our gun-filled culture will say ‘Enough!’ and take meaningful, effective steps to stop it?”
This time the carnage occurred at a decades-old California summer celebration like thousands across the country, with food, vendors, cooking contests and music. The event attracts up to 100,000 to Gilroy, an agricultural town of 50,000 located about 80 miles southeast of San Francisco.
To get into the three-day festival, attendees passed through metal detectors and had their bags searched. Despite those steps, the shooter cut through a fence and was able to gain access. Witnesses said the shooter then walked into a food area with what looked like an assault rifle and started firing.
Many of us are frustrated and unsure about what can and should be done to stop this madness. But what we can’t do is let violent gun deaths and injuries be so routine that they produce only shrugs from a weary public. We cannot back away from solutions, including gun law reform and increased funding for mental health care.
In one video of the Gilroy shooting, an off-camera voice asks, “Who would shoot up a garlic festival?” Why a school? A church, synagogue or mosque? Who would single out a concert as a place to fear death and terrorism?
Clearly, few places or types of events are immune. Sick individuals with anger and hate in their hearts go wherever people gather to make their violent statements. But Americans must fight back to end the heart-wrenching, shaky cellphone videos and other accounts of their fellow citizens running, screaming and diving for cover. Or lines of teenagers filing out of a high school with their hands in the air. Or of a 6-year-old child dying alongside his wounded parent.