- A shooter opened fire inside a municipal building in Virginia Beach on Friday, killing 12 people and injuring four others before being shot by police.
- In several press conferences from city officials and police officers, leaders chose to focus on the victims and heroes rather than the shooter, specifically saying the gunman’s name only once.
- Some are glad to see this become a regular practice after mass shootings, while others argue that knowing basic facts about the acts and actors is important.
Virginia Beach Shooting
Government officials and police officers have emphasized the need to focus on the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach.
On Friday afternoon, a gunman entered the municipal building and opened fire. According to police, he shot and killed a victim in a car outside before entering the building. He then went into the building, killing 11 others and injuring four additional people.
The shooter was an employee of the city and as a result, he had access to the building. Police arrived shortly after and began exchanging fire with the attacker. After a while, the shooter was eventually shot by police and later died from gunshot wounds.
Authorities are still looking for the motive behind the attack. It was later reported that the shooter had sent in his resignation by email earlier that same morning, though he did not say why or allude to the shooting.
Friday Press Conference
Rather than focusing on the shooter himself, officials with the City of Virginia Beach and police officers chose to center their press briefings around remembering the victims of the shooting.
“Our process is always to notify family members prior to releasing names,” Virginia Beach Chief of Police James Cervera said in a press conference Friday. “We do know who the suspect is, we have not been successful in notifying certain family members.”
“Once we are able to do to that we will release his name once. We’re going to mention his name once, and then he will be forever referred to as ‘the suspect,’ because our focus now is the dignity and respect to the victims in this case and to their families.”
Cervera also recognized the police officers who responded to the scene, saying, “I want you to know that during this gun battle, basically, the officers stopped this individual from committed more carnage in that building.”
Saturday Press Conference
The sentiment of remembering the victims was also echoed in a longer press conference on Saturday.
“We want you to know who they were, so in the days and weeks to come, you will learn what they meant to all of us, to their families, to their friends, and to their coworkers,” Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen said. “They leave a void that we will never be able to fill.”
Hansen then went on to give a detailed presentation of the victims, including their names, photos, job titles, and the cities or towns they lived in. Hansen also noted that of the people who died, 11 were city employees, and one was a contractor.
One of those people was Ryan Keith Cox, who has been hailed as a hero for rushing others to safety and helping barricade them in a room, before going to see if other people needed help. Cox died in the shooting, but he saved his co-workers who he helped hide.
Following Hansen’s presentation, he passed the mic off to Chief of Police Cervera, who talked about the investigation and then went on to discuss the suspect. As he promised, Cervera only said the suspect’s name once.
Shift in Narrative
Throughout all the many press briefings in Virginia Beach from government officials and the police, the victims, rather than the shooter, have been the intentional focal point.
“We wanted to control that narrative,” Virginia Beach’s deputy city manager of public safety Steve Cover told the Associated Press after Saturday’s briefing.
“We didn’t want it to leak out piece by piece through family and friends and so forth through the media. We felt it was kind of our obligation to get that message out.”
In fact, this idea of controlling the narrative is something we have been seeing more and more. After the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to say the gunman’s name and urged people to say the names of the victims instead.
According to experts, refusing the name mass shooters and instead remember the names of the victims is a growing tactic that has huge implications for how we talk about mass shooters and could impact the motivations of future attacks.
“The goal is to kind of interrupt the cycle of new mass shooters citing previous ones, and the new mass shooters who are becoming role models for even more attackers,” Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama, told the AP.
“What the guy’s face looks like is not the sort of information that will help stop the next mass shooting.”
However, not everyone agrees with this tactic. James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has studied mass shootings, told AP that it is appropriate for law enforcement to release basic facts.
“It is news,” said Fox. “We provide basic details on other types of offenders.” Fox also argued that it is the “act — not the actor” that influences other shooters, continuing, “The Columbine massacre, for example, inspired copycats, not the assailants’ names and faces.”
Fox did say there is a limit for how much should be reported, noting that reporting too much about a killer’s background can “humanize” them and turn shootings into a spectacle or a “celebrity watch.”
However, that concept presents a huge gray area. How can we draw the line between what the public should know and giving too much attention to shooters?
Regardless, it is important to remember and say the names of the victims instead of the shooter and it is refreshing to see officials and police officers doing just that in Virginia Beach.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.