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Privilege and the Shooting Outside Nationals Park
It's not hard to understand who the bad guys are.
1. Saturday Night
I’d like to tell you a story.
On Saturday I took my 13-year-old son, Flash, to the ballpark to see the Nationals and the visiting San Diego Padres. Here’s the view from our seats as the most exciting player in baseball took the field:
What a thrill to be able to watch Tatis and Manny and the rest of the Swingin’ Friars up close. Not just a thrill, but a privilege. Not everyone gets to do this. I remind Flash of that sort of thing often.
Midway through the 6th inning there was an incident. Behind us and above us there was a burst of semi-automatic gunfire. The sound was unmistakable. My mind immediately tried to figure out the distance. It was loud—everyone in the stadium heard it. But it didn’t seem loud enough to have come from the concourse immediately behind us.
I told Flash to get down between the seats. I scanned the section of the stadium behind us trying to figure if it had come from the second-level concourse.
The crowd was calm for a minute. I wondered if my mind had played tricks on me—maybe the sound had come from a speaker. Then I glanced at the field and saw that the Nationals dugout was empty. That’s when I got nervous. If anyone was going to have a good line to information from the stadium ops/security guys, it was going to be the home team dugout. I got down pretty low and watched the crowd begin to panic.
People started moving in flows. In right field, people ran up toward the concourse. People in the sections behind home plate surged laterally, toward us.
And that’s when I saw something that broke my heart: A bunch of the Padres players had sprinted down the third base line toward the family and friends section and grabbed wives, kids, older parents and random fans and dragged them back toward the visitor’s dugout.
The image from the night I’ll never forget is Fernando Tatis Jr. carrying a little blonde girl across his body and running toward the dugout like he was stealing home.
After a long-ish interval, the ballpark PA announced that an “incident” had occurred just outside the park at the third-base gate. This explained why I’d heard the reports behind and above me, and why it hadn’t seemed quite loud enough to have been a shooter on the ground-level concourse.
What seems to have happened is that someone in a car opened fire immediately outside the third-base gate. Three people were wounded. This is what counts as a happy ending in America, circa 2021: It was “only” a drive-by shooting. “Only” three people were injured. There was not a spree killer inside Nationals Park. Yay.
I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t scared even a little bit. But this wasn’t the first, or second, or third time that I’ve been nearby people getting shot. I lived in Baltimore in the ‘90s. This is a thing that happened.
As I was doing the mental calculations on where the shots came from, I was also assessing our position in case there was a shooter inside the stadium. I thought we were in a good place. Flash and I were in the second row behind the dugout. We had lots of hard cover and the freedom to move North, South, East, or West, as needed. It was a solid tactical situation.
And while I wasn’t thrilled to have to talk to my middle schooler about shooting angles, reducing his visible cross section, the supremacy of good cover, and how to think about freedom of maneuver, he’s 13. He can handle it.
But think about the little blonde girl Tatis carried into the dugout. The ballpark was filled with kids her age. Kids who aren’t old enough to handle this sort of stuff, but were sure as hell old enough that they’ll remember the terror for a good long time.
And what kills me is that even this phrase—“kids who aren’t old enough to handle this sort of stuff”—is itself a mark of tremendous privilege.
Here’s a Washington news story from Friday night about a girl named Nyiah Courtney:
And here is a local news interview of an 8-year-old girl who had been at the Saturday game:
Listen to this sweet girl. Listen to her:
It was my second shooting, so I was kind of prepared, ‘cause I’m always expecting something to happen.
Going to see Fernando Tatis Jr. play baseball is a privilege. But so is being able to get your kid into his teen years without him experiencing a shooting. I am deeply aware that there are kids across America who grow up hearing shots fired in anger as part of their daily lives. This has been true for coming on two generations. And the fact that this is a long-running part of our culture does not diminish our national shame. It increases it.
It’s one thing for a society to fail. It’s another for a society to stop caring about its failures.
2. Gun Assholes
In general, I view guns as an intractable issue in America.
First, we have the Second Amendment, which makes any reform of gun laws at least legally difficult. But second, even if you snapped your fingers and outlawed all firearms today, the number of guns in circulation is so large that it would take a long time to get them out of the hands of bad guys. Decades at the least. We’d probably have people on Mars before we got rid of significant amounts of gun violence.
Now we can argue about the margins on either side of this view. There are probably incremental reforms that would provide small benefits to both Second Amendment rights and the lives of the average citizen. But let’s put that aside for a minute.
Can you imagine being so ghoulish that you use a shooting as a chance to dunk on your political opponents?
The text of the story is even worse:
Democrat-run Washington, DC, has stringent gun controls including universal background checks and gun registration, yet three people were shot outside Nationals’ Park on Saturday night in a game against the Padres.
Giffords reports D.C. has universal background checks, gun registration requirements, microstamping, a ban on the sale or possession of ammunition magazines holding more than ten rounds, a ban on possessing “assault weapons,” and strict regulations on the sale and possession of ammunition, among controls.
Yet the sounds of gunfire filled the air about 9:30 p.m. last night, sending fans and players scurrying for safety during the game between the Nationals and the Padres. . . .
Democrat-run New York also has stringent gun controls, including universal background checks, an “assault weapons” ban, a “high capacity” magazine ban, and a red flag law. Yet the Daily Mail points out shootings in NYC are up 29 percent compared to 2020.
Democrat-run Chicago, like all of Illinois, has a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases, a red flag law, and a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card requirement for would-be gun buyers. The process for getting a FOID card involves a background check.
LOLOLOL. People got shot in a city where the mayor is a Democrat. Look at all the children “scurrying.” Ha ha.
And today’s Gun Guys want to know why people think they’re assholes.
Just as an aside: The long-time mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, is a Republican. Jacksonville has relatively loose gun laws. Gun-related murders in Jacksonville are way up. Breitbart doesn’t talk about this much. But does this correlation of facts tell you anything significant about what’s going on in Jacksonville vis-a-vis gun policy?
Imagine being so privileged, so protected from the real world and the consequences of your actions, that you think it’s cool to mock people grappling with gun violence in their everyday lives. To laugh at the little girl in Tatis’s arms.
She didn’t actually get shot; you people were never in real danger; and besides the mayor is a Democrat.
There will be no perfect solution to America’s gun problem. There may not even be an okay-ish solution.
But while it used to be that the 2A crowd wasn’t interested in mitigating the problems their legal rights create for other Americans, these days, the 2A crowd positively revels in the problems their legal rights create for other Americans.
I’m not sure what to do with that. Except to note that intractable problems can still have good guys and bad guys.
If you’re a gun enthusiast, I get it. You have your rights. You’re probably a responsible gun owner. You don’t want to be lumped in with the criminals doing drive-by shootings. You’ve never murdered anyone.
So don’t be a bad guy.
Understand that you’re the one enjoying the privilege.
Understand that, through no fault of your own, the effect of your privilege at scale has caused downstream problems for people you don’t know. Like the little girl Tatis was carrying. Like Nyiah Courtney.
This understanding doesn’t have to turn you into George Fox. But adults are supposed to know that privileges come with responsibilities. And your responsibilities don’t end with how you, personally, handle your own guns.
They extend to how you treat the people who aren’t as privileged.
And they should extend to thinking through—in good faith—about whether or not there are ways to mitigate the adverse effects your privileges create for others.
Watching Tatis up close, I think he might be the best pure athlete I’ve ever seen on a baseball diamond. Everything thing he does looks uncanny—whether it’s doing high-knees during warmup or getting set before a pitch on the infield. He’s got that crazy fluidity that’s part ballet dancer, part soccer midfielder— guy who glides, but has explosive power.
Also, it’s basically impossible not to love the kid:
Fernando Tatis Jr. does not move as much as he bebops, from person to person, place to place or, when he was 8, roof to pavement. He tried to backflip off his house and into his pool, missed and shattered his right femur. At the hospital, upon glancing at his hip-to-ankle cast, all Tatis wanted to know was when he could play baseball again.
Thirteen years later, it's still not easy to constrain him. The scion of a dynasty, the favorite son of a nation, the fulcrum of one of the only franchises never to win a World Series -- this is not someone who slows down, not even for a second. Whether he's manning shortstop for the San Diego Padres or he's away from the field, Tatis is dancing and gabbing and dapping and gesticulating, so perpetually in motion that he's a thermodynamic anomaly. Even Tatis' laugh is a full-body undertaking. His neck snaps back, his dyed-blond dreadlocks follow suit, his shoulders shrug, his torso heaves. He radiates joy. . . .
Watching Tatis play baseball is a trip in a time machine, only not to professional baseball's past. It is a direct line to childhood, to countless hours spent with friends doing all the things coaches warned you never to do, like slide to field a ground ball or score from first on a ground ball single up the middle or tag up from third base on a popup to second. They told you never to do that because you weren't Fernando Tatis Jr.
"He does [everything] with energy and passion," Padres general manager A.J. Preller says. "I think all of those things are reasons that you want to turn on the TV at 7 and watch a Padres game."
Tatis is the closest thing in baseball to appointment viewing, well worth the late-night caffeine hit for East Coasters. He is a video game create-a-player with the settings cranked to 99: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, power to all fields, fast like a Funny Car, silly arm strength, Astaire feet. It's a harmonious set of tools, and he hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases over 84 games of a 2019 rookie season abbreviated by hamstring and back injuries. Tatis' .969 OPS was the highest ever for a rookie shortstop with at least 300 plate appearances.