On April 30, a campus shooter killed two UNC-Charlotte students, Riley Howell and Ellis Parlier. In the two weeks since, hardly anyone on Capitol Hill has so much as uttered their names.
On Monday, Brian Murphy, a D.C.-based reporter for McClatchy, published a report from the nation’s capitol, highlighting the lack of a response to the UNC-Charlotte shooting from national politicians. While state legislators in the Tar Heel State sent out their obligatory “thoughts and prayers” statements, the tragedy hardly registered on D.C.’s radar.
As of Monday, the shooting still has yet to be addressed by President Donald Trump, in person or online (he did make plenty of time last week to screw over Indian Country, however). Likewise, as reported by Media Matters, the major cable networks granted the shooting just 45 minutes of total coverage.
The sole attention granted to the shooting has come by way of the state’s representatives in D.C., and even then, it’s been sparse. On Thursday, seven of North Carolina’s representatives in the House held a moment of silence for them on the House floor. Sen. Richard Burr published a single Tweet the day of the shooting. Sen. Thom Tillis, who lives roughly 15 minutes from UNC-Charlotte’s campus, read a brief statement on the Senate floor, in which he read a paragraph about the two dead students, highlighting Howell’s decision to charge the shooter.
The focus on what has been widely deemed a heroic action played into Murphy’s larger critique of the media’s coverage of the shooting, as most of the national news coverage focused on Howell tackling the shooter, as they did days later when Kendrick Castillo rushed a shooter at his Colorado high school. In the time since, both Howell’s long-time girlfriend and school safety experts have lamented the idea that students are now forced to train themselves to be martyrs or risk higher body counts. Even a person that attended the UNC-Charlotte graduation commencement address told Splinter that while speakers honored Howell’s heroism, they didn’t discuss lingering concerns present among parent and students about how, if at all, the school could prevent future shootings.
What’s so frustrating about the entire situation, as a North Carolinian and a younger person that’s become already desensitized to the nature of the mass shooting news cycle, is how familiar it all feels. The idea that the Charlotte shooting would ever register as more a faint blip on Congress’ radar was always far-fetched for the simple reason that the tragedy was not quite tragic enough in relation to what we’ve all watched play out on social media or the nightly news.
That is, as the issues of gun violence and deteriorating mental health of college campus atmospheres have spiraled and gone ignored by the people that hold power, the necessary body count or shock level required to make people look up from their desk has shot upwards into the dozens. The end result is that the lives of two, or four, or six college students is now little more than the price of living in America.