A Word on the Shooting in Allen, Texas

A Word on the Shooting in Allen, Texas May 7, 2023

a gun on an American flag
image via Pixabay

Last night, we all received the news of yet another mass shooting, in a record-setting year for mass shootings in America. This one was at an outlet store in Allen, Texas. By the time you read this there will be another.

Personally, I already spent Saturday reeling from news of a mass shooting in Columbus, in the Short North where I’ve been many times, near where my best friends live. That was the state I was in when I saw the news about Allen, near where more of my friends live. It turns out that my friends were at another mall very nearby that was actually evacuated due to a gun threat during the incident in Allen. They were fine, except for one of their children having a panic attack. My friends in Columbus are fine. But I am overwhelmed and furious just to live in this country, and I think most of us feel that way right now. The situation is unacceptable, and it has to stop.

As I was scrolling through the news last night, I saw the photos.

Maybe you have too.

Someone published the security photos of the heap of dead bodies in the mall in Allen. One of them was a child. Some of the photos had the faces pixelated, insofar as the victims had any faces left, and some didn’t. They were circulating on social media, much to everybody’s horror.

The people who were doing this were insisting that we all had to be informed of the reality of gun violence by looking at the photos. They said that maybe this would be the step that changes minds and forces the country to adopt sensible gun control measures. Maybe hearing about it just wasn’t enough, and we all had to look at it. They really seemed to think this would work.

I saw some of those people, who were invariably white men of a liberal persuasion, insisting “Emmett Till’s mother held an open-casket funeral to change people’s mind about lynching.” That was their excuse. They all referred to the famous and passionate activist as “Emmett Till’s mother” as if she didn’t have an identity of her own.

Two things come to mind.

First of all, “Emmett Till’s mother” was a human being and her name was Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley.

She was Emmett Till’s next of kin.  The next of kin are allowed to choose what way they want their loved one memorialized. Random strangers are not. It is  inappropriate for white liberals to name-drop “Emmett Till’s mother,” not even bothering to get her name, as an excuse to make pornography out of other people’s children.

And secondly, that is exactly what you’re doing if you publish or share those photos: you’re traumatizing people who already know that gun violence is wrong, and you’re making porn for people who have already decided that this madness is acceptable. You’re not going to change a single mind.

I am not saying this to shame sensible gun owners. There are a lot of those. I know many sane and responsible hunters who keep their rifles in a safe and follow all the safety rules. I am friends with people who keep a gun for protection and have carefully trained in how to use it. I would like to own a gun to protect myself someday, and I intend to get the proper training when I do. We already know that things are out of control. My friends who are gun owners are the first to denounce America’s mass shooting epidemic. They despise the NRA. I am talking here about the gun-obsessed, the people who vote with “preserving the second amendment” as a priority, the people who collect AKs as if they’re bubblegum cards and pose with their rifles for Christmas pictures. Those people are not going to be convinced to condemn gun violence because they saw horrifying photos of a heap of bloody corpses. Such people think about bloody corpses all the time. They’re obsessed with them. They fantasize about emergency situations where the bodies are flying, where they think they’ll get to be the good guy with the gun who blows away a terrorist. Seeing a dead child at a mall will make them want more guns. You might as well try to stop an alcoholic from drinking by showing them magazine ads for liquor.

If you can’t see that America has a severe gun problem by keeping informed of the constant killing, you’re not going to be convinced by looking at photos of dead children.

If people think that glutting our society with more and more weapons of mass killing is going to protect them from danger, they are not going to have their minds changed by disrespecting and exploiting the dead. All that will do is magnify the pain of their loved ones, and they’re already suffering enough.

Our gun violence epidemic is not happening because people don’t know what guns do. It’s happening because a few greedy cowards have a vastly disproportionate control over our democracy and our media. That’s what has to change. It’s not going to change by exacerbating the trauma of victims of gun violence and their families.

There are much better ways to help.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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