Jacksonville Landing shooting: Tragedy in gun-free zone

Photo of Jacksonville Landing, Indie Art South

Yesterday I got a text from a loved one who wanted to know if all my family in Jacksonville was okay. Media were reporting a mass shooting in Jacksonville. I turned on the TV and watched as the latest assault on innocents commenced. I am still dismayed at the loss of lives and the injuries. I am still not surprised, however, by what happened on social media before the bodies and injured victims were removed from the site. 

@Chasedel tribute to Taylor Robertson and Eli Clayton, Jacksonville Landing shooting victims
@Chasedel on Twitter put up a heartfelt tribute to Taylor Robertson and Eli Clayton after they were murdered during a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, FL.

The customary political arguments immediately came forth. Guns. The color of the shooter’s skin. The gaming community. The shooter’s politics. You name it. Back and forth the armchair pundits went like pit bulls forced into a dog fight. This is my home city. I first thought I wouldn’t write about this.

Then came the bombardment of messaging all around me, from every type of media as well as personal conversations. I decided to write about what happened. How could I ignore it?

What caused a 24 year old gamer to open fire on members of the community he was well known to? According to messages on Twitter, the shooter had won a Buffalo Bills Madden club tourney in the past.

We don’t have the answers to that or other questions about David Katz, a resident of Baltimore (MD), who shot two people dead and injured 11 more with gunshot wounds. Two other people were injured as they fled the chaos.

The shooter then killed himself, according to media reports.

Various media such as WJXT 4 in Jacksonville have identified the dead :

“Social media and multiple published reports have identified the men as 27-year-old Taylor Robertson and 22-year-old Eli Clayton.”

That linked story also contains some information about the injured victims.

Political battles aside, the public is often given very little personal information about perpetrators in mass shootings. One exception was the Navy Yard shooter. When that mass shooting occurred in 2013, coverage raged for a day or two and then the story dropped from the news cycle. By the time the US Department of Defense issued its report, few paid it any heed. I wrote about it after reading the report, and reaching a horrifying conclusion—those shootings, like so many others, were preventable. At least one legacy media outlet on the left apparently agreed with my conclusion.

In various other stories about mass shootings, the matter of medications prescribed for various mental conditions has cropped up. I believe this is a vastly under-studied and under-covered aspect of a number of shooters’ histories, although admittedly not all of them.

What makes a person decide to kill innocents? I don’t know. In times past, we’d have attributed it to evil. In today’s culture, the theme of killing is exploited by artists of all genres. That theme has figured in art since the beginning of art. If video games or films or gun laws were the problem, then we’d see far more of this. I think we are looking in the wrong places.

A person’s moral compass is formed in the home. Usually, unless a person is completely separated from friends and family, warning signs will emerge. This has been the case with every mass shooter, including those classified as domestic or foreign terrorists. The family is the first rung in the ladder when it comes to helping a troubled person and potentially preventing harm to others.

What’s also interesting about the current climate is the absence of the pulpit in the public conversation. Where are the holy men decrying the taking of a life? Where is the public condemnation for those who break a key Christian commandment? Where are the words that sooth, or inspire, from leaders in organized faiths?

I’d posit many of these faith leaders, regardless of creed, are too busy yammering about politics. They’ve forgotten the sanctity of life at all levels. Having sat through more than one politicized sermon, I can attest many pastors don’t hesitate to advocate for various causes. I don’t hear too much about the Ten Commandments these days. As I grew up, they were a cornerstone in building character. Even if you aren’t Christian or Jewish, most of those rules of faith can work for behavior across the board.

I’ve been to Jacksonville Landing countless times with friends and family. I love hearing live music there. I love the river views. I love the variety of people I see there—you could literally people-watch all day and never be bored.

We also had another shooting incident here in Jax this weekend. After a high school football game, one person died and two others were injured by gunfire. Media coverage included this:

“The superintendent said everyone coming into the game had to undergo a magnetic detector wand search and that security inside the game area was tight.”

Tragedies like this, wrecking families and bestowing grief on a community, happen because of individuals who brazenly disregard the sanctity of life. I don’t know what causes a person to embrace evil instead of good, but I do know some individuals will opt for evil. It’s a blessing most of us don’t. Thousands and thousands of people attend events in the Jax Landing area. They go home safely.

Legislation isn’t going to fix our problem. Only by changing hearts and minds will we begin to address the wanton disregard for human life in our culture and in numerous others around the globe.

As for gun control, right now we don’t have any idea how the shooter got the gun or if he got it legally.

We do know he didn’t abide by rules posted publicly for all to see.

Jacksonville Landing is a gun-free zone.

(Kay B. Day/Aug. 27, 2018)

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