This particular bit of awful news out of Fresno, California broke on Sunday evening and at first, it caused quite a stir in the media. A mass shooting had taken place in the back yard of a family home where a group of people had gathered to watch football. Multiple gunmen entered the yard through a side gate and without saying a word began firing into the crowd. When they fled there were four dead and six more injured. People were justifiably horrified. (Associated Press)
A close-knit Hmong community was in shock after gunmen burst into a California backyard gathering and shot 10 men, killing four.
“We are right now just trying to figure out what to do, what are the next steps. How do we heal, how do we know what’s going on,” said Bobby Bliatout, a community leader…
“Our community is in mourning, and we still don’t know what’s going on, or who are the suspects,” said Pao Yang, CEO of the Fresno Center, a Hmong community group.
This shooting qualified for multiple Breaking News announcements on cable news and announcements arriving in people’s email inboxes. And then a strange thing seemed to happen. By Monday morning there was almost no additional coverage. I think I saw it mentioned briefly twice on CNN, and then it was back to the impeachment hearings pretty much non-stop.
With ten people shot and four killed, this obviously meets the media’s current definition of a mass shooting. So where was the outrage? Where were the calls for new gun control laws? How did this tragedy turn into a non-story?
First of all, the victims were all adult males from the Hmong community. And while police said they didn’t find any ties to gang activity among the victims, they were looking into a recent “disturbance” between some of them and members of one of the local Hmong gangs. (Fresno has had problems with gang violence, including Hmong groups, for quite a while now.)
Another factor is the fact that police reported the assailants using semiautomatic handguns. The event was reportedly over pretty quickly, so they probably weren’t using collections of extended magazines.
In other words, this mass shooting is uninteresting to much of the media because it fails all the normal tests and doesn’t fit in with the narrative. Had the men at least been using “assault rifles” they might have merited a bit more coverage. But those events are vanishingly rare because most gang members are well aware that it’s tough to hide a long gun when walking down the street to attack someone or while fleeing the scene afterward.
Further, if initial reports prove accurate, this was an incident of adult Asian people shooting other adult Asian people. And most of the press has about as much interest in that story as one where black gang members are shooting other black people. In short… basically none. It’s reminiscent of the Bunny Friend Park shooting in New Orleans back in 2015. It was the second-largest mass shooting of the year in the United States.
Seventeen people were shot in the middle of a public festival but if you didn’t live in New Orleans or subscribe to the Times-Picayune, you probably never heard about it. Why? Because it was two rival gangs composed primarily of African-Americans settling a turf war. Unfortunately, they were such poor marksmen that almost all of the victims were bystanders, including a young boy who was shot through the spine and will likely spend his life in a wheelchair.
So the Fresno shooting has effectively already gone down the memory hole, while the last school shooting (that claimed fewer victims) is still popping up in the news a week later. There’s no real underlying lesson here that we didn’t already know about. I only bring it up as a useful data point for future reference. The police still have no suspects identified in the Fresno shooting, but hopefully, progress will be made. We should send out our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.