On April 19, Monday, former detective Stephen Broderick was arrested and charged in Austin shooting and killing three people the previous day. The police have identified the victims as his ex-wife Amanda Broderick, their 17 year old daughter Alyssa Broderick and her 18year old boyfriend Willie Simmons. The incident occurred in Northwest Austin on April 18 just before noon. Broderick allegedly shot the three of them on the street during a scheduled visit to see his son, before absconding from the scene. All three victims died at the scene . Their bodies were next to two cars that appeared to have crashed. Broderick’s 9 year old son was present during the shooting but was not harmed. Police began to search for Broderick, who remained at large for the next 19 hours.
Broderick was arrested previously on June 6 2020 and charged in a child sexual assault case.
He was released on bail in the same month. The former detective is currently being held in Travis County Jail without bail. The police charged him with capital murder and a second-degree felony.
While this incident is truly horrifying, what is even more appalling is that this incident has happened just a month after the infamous Atlanta shootings. A shooter killed six women of Asian descent in three spas. These shootings, however, are not the only ones to happen in the last few years, or even the last month.
On April 15, just 3 days before the Austin shooting, a shooting occurred in a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis. The gunman killed eight people before turning the gun on himself. The list of areas that have witnessed shootings in the last few months is exhaustive. It ranges from grocery stores, gas stations, bars, and Walmart stores to offices, high schools, churches, and airports. A database compiled by the Violence Project records shootings with four or more casualties. It is shocking to know that 29 such shootings have occurred in the last five years.
Large cites are not the only places where these shootings occur. Even small towns with very few people have witnessed these brutal attacks. This points to a glaring affliction – toxic anger, hate, mental stress, and some other factors can cause a person to want to pick up a gun. And the laws of the country have made it easy to do so. The number of shootings is so high that people in the US now go to places they previously felt safe in not knowing if today is their last day.
The second amendment of the US Constitution states that “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
This gives an individual the right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes such as self-defence. The amendment was written in 1791. It restricted the powers of and give citizens the ability to fight oppression by the newly formed federal government. Another reason was that at the time, there was no standing army. To protect the nation, the government declared that a white man’s right to own a firearm cannot be taken away.
However, one must remember that the amendment was introduced in 1791. It is now 2021. The US possesses a standing army and can protect itself very well. Yet, the second amendment allows people to purchase firearms with no laws regulating this purchase.
An important feature of the amendment is that it does not ban state regulation of firearms. This has resulted in many states attempting to impose regulations on the sale of firearms.
The Supreme Court has declared a ban on gun ownership by people convicted of nonviolent crimes. These include driving under the influence, tax fraud, etc. This decision is an extremely important one that has helped curb the spate of gun violence to an extent. But is not enough on its own.
It can thus be said that the Second Amendment is not completely relevant today. Everyone has the right to protect themselves (self defence). But this right to protect their families comes at the cost of many lives taken by those who bought firearms for the sole purpose of murder.
Why does this happen?
An important question that must be asked is why do shooters commit these horrifying crimes? Why do they willingly take the lives of innocents that they have probably never seen before?
Several studies conducted on this issue questioned shooters about their motives. Revenge was the primary reason , along with substance abuse, physical abuse at home, mental problems, and feeling powerless/afraid. Another major reason is the easy availability of guns. All these factors culminate in an impulse decision that kills many and leaves much more bereaved. It can even render the shooter regretful of their choice. Stephen Broderick, in the Austin shooting, did not meet his family that day with the intent to kill. It was a misunderstanding that ruined all their lives.
Two other major reasons are media and race. The great nation which welcomed all and enabled people of different races and communities to live side-by-side has now turned into a land of racial crime, hate, and intolerance. In the Atlanta shootings, a shooter attacked members of a minority community, who were also women. Race and gender-based crime is not a new occurrence in the US.
Role of the Media
In situations such as the Austin shooting, the media was a double-edged sword. One can say that the media actually plays a role in propagating this violence through glorification. It provides a lot of screen-time to the discussion of these events. Most shooters commit crimes to get their fifteen minutes of fame, and to spread their views on a particular subject. They see themselves as martyrs of their cause and the victims as necessary sacrifices.
Another way in which the media cultivates crime is through the various movies, TV shows, and documentaries. These glorify violence and provide ideas about how to go about performing crimes. One convicted shooter recounts that a documentary on the Columbine High School Shootings inspired him. He further talks about how he was able to access a gun- he knew where his stepfather kept it at home. The ease with which the shooter, a 15year old boy at the time, could get a gun, truly chills the blood.
This demonstrates the “copy-cat effect”, as those who would never have considered killing people do so under the influence of the media.
This, however, does not mean that the media’s role is entirely negative. Several movies, articles, TV shows, etc. talk about gun violence and depict its true nature. It is a horrific transgression that is slowly spreading and even becoming commonplace. They stress the need to pass stringent laws on gun control to save potentially hundreds of lives. Even movies from a long time ago do the same. One such example is the movie Runaway Jury(2003), a truly thrilling movie that depicts the horror and grief of people who have lost their loved ones to gun violence. It shows the extent to which they go to obtain justice and bring down a major gun producing company.
Police and Gun Violence
25 May 2020. Many remember Austin shooting as the day a white cop callously murdered an American citizen George Floyd. His only crime was being an African- American man. His death sparked off worldwide protests against police brutality, with the famous slogan “Black Lives Matter”.
This is not the only instance that has become infamous. Daunte Wright, another black man, was killed on 11 April by a police officer. She reportedly drew her gun instead of her taser by mistake.
This, combined with the Austin shooting orchestrated by former detective Stephen Broderick, serves to demonstrate the police’s casual use of guns even in completely non-threatening situations to deal with perceived threats.
People need to have the means to defend themselves and their families against threats using guns. No one can take this right away from them. However, the spread of gun violence, much like a plague, shows that more stringent measures need to be taken to control the sale of guns. This is especially true in the case of ex-felons and people charged with crimes. Stephen Broderick was charged and let out on bail in a child sexual assault case, yet allowed to retain ownership of his gun. This clearly illustrates the need for gun control. The media could also help in this situation by not focusing on the details of how the crime happened. This would make it easy for future perpetrators to commit crimes. Another measure that could be taken is the ban of guns in areas such as schools, offices, and other high-population places.
Only by restricting the use of guns using viable methods can this epidemic be contained and gun violence is, if not eradicated, at least assuaged.