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On Sunday, August 26, a 24-year-old gamer named David Katz opened fire on a crowd at a Madden video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, killing two and injuring 10 others. This tragedy affected the gaming community deeply, and gamers across the United States are mourning the loss of their fellow players.
The gun control debate has again been reignited because of this horrific event, and some are wondering if enough is being done to prevent mass shootings. There are more guns than citizens in the U.S., according to research by the University of Southern California. Researchers found that there are 101.5 guns per 100 people in America, which is the highest in the world. Should more be done to restrict gun access so tragedies like this don’t occur again?
Remembering The Dead
The gaming community lost two dedicated players after the Jacksonville shooting: 22-year-old Elijah Clayton and 28-year-old Taylor Robertson. Friends and fellow players are paying tribute to them and honoring their memory.
Robertson, from West Virginia, received more than $80,000 in tournament winnings and won the game competition, Madden Classic, two years ago. A 2009 graduate of James Monroe High School, Robertson was remembered by friends and family at a vigil held at his school on August 27. One of Robertson’s friends, Andrew Evans, spoke to West Virginia station WVNS about how he will be remembered. “He was the most humble human being to have the abilities and the talents that he had,” Evans said.
Clayton, from Woodland Hills, California, attended Calabasas High School during the 2013-2014 school year and became a football player there. The principal of the school, CJ Foss, told local station KABC that, “He was amazingly kind-hearted. When it hits this close to home, it’s going to be especially difficult,” he said.
In the days following the Jacksonville shooting, one of the most well-known and awarded video game companies in the world, Electronic Arts, announced they will be paying tribute to the victims affected by making a $1 million dollar contribution to the families of those killed and injured. The company will also bring the gaming community together with a Jacksonville Tribute Live-stream on Thursday, September 6, in which gamers from all around the world can play games with one another. EA said they will be sharing more details in the coming days and hope this event will allow gamers to heal and make their community stronger. Community togetherness plays a vital role in helping people cope with tragedy, and that’s just what the gaming community has shown in the aftermath of the Jacksonville shooting.
A Long Road To Recovery
Several of those injured shared their story of what it was like for them to experience such a horrific mass shooting. Tony Montagnino, who was struck twice in his lower body, went to Twitter to express his thoughts on the matter. “Still doesn’t feel real,” he said. “Saw a lot of things today I wish I hadn’t seen. But I also saw a community of people rally around each other and a massive amount of support from friends and family to check on everyone.”
Drini Gjoka, who was hit in the thumb with gunfire, described the Jacksonville shooting as, “The worst day of my life,” on his Twitter page. “I will never take anything for granted ever again. Life can be cut short in a second,” he said. Timothy Anselimo, who was shot three times — in his chest, right hand and hip — said on Twitter that he was devastated, had no words and thanked everyone for reaching out with support.
Gaming companies from all around the world spoke out about the Jacksonville shooting and gave their condolences to those affected by it. The streaming website Twitch, for example, said on Twitter that they were, “shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Jacksonville,” and they sent their deepest wishes to the families of victims. Some within the gaming industry questioned if security measures need to be increased during events and whether or not gun control laws need to be tightened.
Where Does the Gaming Community Go From Here?
According to an interview with Medical News Today, UC Davis physician Garen Wintemute suggests gun massacres, such as the one in Jacksonville, can be stopped by creating extensive background check measures and denial criteria. “To reduce the number of deaths and injuries from firearms in the United States, we need to develop policies that require background checks for all firearm purchases, including private-party sales, the most important source of firearms for criminal buyers and others who are prohibited from purchasing guns,” he said.
But David Katz, the gunman in the Jacksonville shooting and a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, was able to purchase a gun legally in a state with one of the country’s strictest gun laws. To legally buy a firearm in Maryland, applicants have to undergo fingerprint-based background checks and participate in firearm training courses. Katz appeared to have a history of mental health problems that went back as far as a decade but was still able to purchase a firearm under Maryland’s gun laws. Court documents from his parents’ divorce show the extent of Katz’s psychological issues and according to The Washington Post, he was sent to two mental facilities when he was 13 years old.
While Katz’s motive is still being investigated, it’s clear that he was specifically targeting other gamers. Alexander Madunic, who was injured in the foot with a gunshot wound, told CNN that Katz lost a game in the competition the day before and was angry about it. As victims and families are still reeling from the day’s events, politicians from both parties continue to debate over the level of gun control needed to prevent individuals like Katz from getting their hands on a firearm. Mental health services need to be taken into account as well, as Katz clearly didn’t get the help he needed. But one thing’s for sure: The gaming community won’t let this tragedy define them, continuing to pay respect for one another as they play on.