As the nation’s psyche was shattered by yet another mass shooting in Chesapeake, Virginia, the moments of terror recounted by Walmart employee Jessie Wilczewski — who survived a Tuesday night attack that killed at least six people – reflected the position of hopelessness in which America once again finds itself. same when it comes to armed violence.
“I had the gun up to my forehead,” Wilczewski told CNN’s Erica Hill Wednesday night on “Erin Burnett OutFront,” describing the moment she encountered the suspect, who was identified by Walmart as a “head of the team overnight” in the shop. “He told me to come home.”
“I got up very slowly and tried not to look at anyone on the ground,” Wilczewski said. She walked through the double doors to the egg aisle, grabbing her bag and wondering if the suspect was going to shoot her in the back. He started running and didn’t stop until he reached his car.
This is a year in which President Joe Biden and lawmakers in Congress managed to forge a bipartisan compromise on a package of gun safety laws after years of inaction. States like Virginia and Colorado, where a gunman opened fire and killed five people over the weekend at an LBGTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, have passed strong gun measures aimed at preventing such events from happening. Lawmakers from both parties have spent countless hours on the campaign trail promising to address the nation’s mental health crisis. Things had to get better.
And yet the nation is once again trying to come to terms with yet another senseless tragedy.
Wilczewski, who was on his fifth night working at Walmart, found himself in the break room with a gunman wondering if he would make it out alive, and then when he did, he wondered why he had been spared his life many other innocents were not. It’s a recurring question Americans ask themselves every time a mass shooting occurs.
“I don’t know why he let me go and, yeah, it’s bothering me really, really bad,” Wilczewski said. “It keeps replaying when you leave the scene. It doesn’t stop doing so much damage. It doesn’t stop.”
These are sentiments that have been voiced by countless survivors of gun violence who have pressed lawmakers to do more in recent years as mass shootings continue unabated. Americans looked forward to this Thanksgiving holiday as a reprieve at the end of a difficult year plagued by the fallout from the pandemic and fears about layoffs and a possible recession. But on a holiday meant to reflect the nation’s blessings, the incidents in Virginia and Colorado Springs have plunged the nation back into what seems like an endless debate about how to stop gun violence that never seems to yield a solution.
There have been at least 609 mass shootings (incidents in which more than four people were shot) this year, compared to 638 shootings at this time last year and 690 shootings in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive .
Investigators are still trying to figure out the motives behind the incidents in Virginia and Colorado, but the unexplained killings in Chesapeake came less than two weeks after a fatal shooting of three football players at the University of Virginia earlier this month . The series of incidents points to the failure of existing laws to stop the carnage, as well as deep disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over what additional gun safety measures are needed.
The chasm between the two parties was exemplified Wednesday by divergent responses from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican seen as a potential 2024 White House contender, and Biden, who has long advocated tougher measures of weapons
Youngkin said Virginians’ hearts were broken after “a horrific act of senseless violence in Chesapeake,” calling it a “shocking and stark reality” without elaborating on gun policy or how could prevent these events.
“We’ve had two horrific acts of violence in the Commonwealth of Virginia in two weeks and that absolutely brings with it a sense of anger, a sense of fear, a sense of deep, deep grief,” the Virginia governor said.
At Thanksgiving, Youngkin also asked about his status in a tweet to “lift up in prayer” the families of those killed in mass shootings.
Biden instead called for “further action” on gun reform, following his call to reinstate the assault weapons ban following the Colorado Springs shooting, a proposal that has little chance of gaining traction in a divided Congress, with Republicans poised to take over. the House in January.
Biden noted in a statement that Thanksgiving is typically a holiday that “brings us together as Americans and as families, when we hug our loved ones and count our blessings. But because of another act of horrific and senseless violence, now even more tables across the country will have empty seats this Thanksgiving. Now there are more families who know the worst kind of loss and grief imaginable.”
“This year, I signed the most important gun reform in a generation, but this is not enough. We must take bigger steps,” Biden said.
On Thanksgiving, Biden told reporters he would work with Congress to “try to get rid of assault weapons.”
When asked if he would try to do that during the lame-duck session, he said, “I have to do that assessment as soon as I get in and start counting the votes.”
Congress returns next week with a full to-do list in the lame-duck session, mostly focused on the government funding bill that needs to be passed, as well as other priorities. But any action on gun legislation, particularly the assault weapons ban that Biden has repeatedly called for, does not have the votes to pass. And the reality of a divided Congress in session next year makes it highly unlikely that anything will happen in the next two years.
Charles Ramsey, a former Washington, DC police chief and law enforcement analyst for CNN, noted that police response times to both the Chesapeake, Virginia and Colorado shootings were very quick: the first officer arrived at the scene in two minutes in the afternoon. Walmart, according to the City of Chesapeake. However, police were unable to stop the loss of life, including the death of a 16-year-old boy in the Walmart shooting who is not being identified because he is a minor.
“It will happen again; he’s not going to stop,” Ramsey said on CNN’s “The Situation Room” Wednesday. “We’ll talk about something else next week; I mean, if we only have short memories, we don’t focus and we don’t take the steps that we need to take as a society to stop it.”
Steve Moore, a retired FBI supervisory special agent who is a law enforcement contributor to CNN, said it would be more effective if lawmakers focused their efforts on solving the mental health problems of the nation, rather than pursuing an assault weapons ban that has little chance of passing. – partly because there are already many of these weapons in private hands.
“It’s a little late to close the barn door,” he said on CNN’s “Newsroom” Wednesday. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but we have to find a way to keep them out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and in this situation in Colorado, there were more than enough, more than enough. to use a red flag law to keep guns away from him.”
The portraits that emerged of both suspects were of troubled individuals whose behavior raised questions for those who encountered them.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, the alleged Colorado gunman who was seen on video from a Colorado courtroom Wednesday, was bullied as a youngster and appeared to have had a difficult relationship with his mother, who faced a series of arrests and related mental health evaluations, CNN Investigates reports. The shooter identifies as non-binary and goes by the pronouns they and them, according to court documents.
Aldrich’s mother called police last year to report that Aldrich had threatened to hurt her with bombs and other weapons, but no charges were filed in that case, which was later sealed.
Co-workers said the gunman who opened fire at Walmart, who was identified by the city of Chesapeake as 31-year-old Andre Bing, had displayed strange and threatening behavior.
Briana Tyler, a Walmart employee, told CNN’s Brian Todd that the gunman “just had a blank look on his face” during the shooting.
“He literally just looked around the room and shot and there were people falling to the floor,” Tyler said. “Everybody was screaming, gasping. And yes, he left after that and continued throughout the store and continued to shoot.”
Bing was armed with a handgun and several magazines, according to the city of Chesapeake, and died of what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.