Police are still trying to piece together the actions and motivations of Raymond Spencer, the suspected gunman who appears to have targeted the Edmund Burke School in the Van Ness neighborhood. “The school was certainly in his crosshairs,” D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said at a Monday news conference. Investigators say they believe he searched Wikipedia pages on the recent New York City subway attack and a Florida school shooting, and edited the Wikipedia page for the Edmund Burke School to include Friday’s shooting. The 23-year-old Fairfax County resident apparently turned a gun on himself as police prepared to enter the fifth-floor apartment he had rented. Authorities described the sparsely furnished room as a “sniper’s nest.” There was a tripod and six firearms, including three that were fully automatic rifles. Police found thousands more rounds of ammunition inside another residence in Fairfax the gunman had rented.
Colbert I. King: ‘Our communities are now safe’? D.C. residents know otherwise.
A spokesman for the D.C. police said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined the guns and components were purchased legally in Virginia; the long guns had been assembled or manipulated to be fully automatic, which is illegal. A country awash in guns makes it so easy — indeed too easy — to amass arsenals, including weapons designed for war and virtually unlimited rounds of ammunition. “This epidemic of gun violence in our country, the easy access to firearms — it has got to stop,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in a letter to the public released Friday night, hours after she said she “looked into the eyes of parents who were terrified, and they were terrified thinking of what might happen to their children.” Two victims remain in critical condition, and so traumatized was the school that classes were canceled Monday.
The Van Ness shooting was singular in its random aim to terrorize a community, but sadly it was not the only incident in D.C. last week involving guns. Chief Contee said that on Friday and Saturday, police responded to 10 shootings with 15 victims. The incidents included a man in a wheelchair shot during a dispute, a construction worker directing traffic shot by a bicyclist upset by delays, and a man fatally shot and stabbed during an argument at a birthday party. Police recovered 40 illegal guns over the weekend; overall this year, 969 guns have been recovered, a 50 percent increase from the same period in 2021. The numbers, Chief Contee said, should make every person cringe.
The country needs to do more than cringe. The time for common-sense gun reforms, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and ghost guns, and safe storage for weapons, is long overdue.