Originally published at The Atlantic

On Sunday afternoon, a man shot and killed three people, including himself, and injured at least 11 others at a Madden NFL video-game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jacksonville police impounded the shooter’s car, suggesting that he drove down from his home in Baltimore (which the FBI has since raided). It’s not yet known whether he planned to commit the violence at the tournament, or if the shooting was a crime of passion.

Details are not yet entirely clear, but authorities announced that the suspect is a 24-year-old white male who had been competing in (and had been eliminated from) the tournament. Police have not released a possible motive, but according to witnesses, the man was seen quarreling with other competitors before the shooting began. The dead are two players on the Madden circuit, 22-year-old Eli Clayton (who goes by the nicknames “True” and “TrueBoy”) and Taylor  Robertson (aka “spotmeplzzz” or just “spotme”). In a live-stream of the event, Clayton can be seen smiling as he competes, just before the shots rang out, unaware of the red glow of a laser-sight on his chest.

Mass shootings are so frequent that the fact of senseless murder often becomes subordinated to the details of its context: a church, or a school, or a movie theater, or a shopping mall. That instinct speaks to how pervasive and intractable gun violence feels in America, for one part. But it also shows how desperate citizens of all kinds are to explain their causes. To some, guns are the direct cause, a fact deployed in calls for and against gun control in their aftermath. But cultural factors dilute those ideas, making some massacres seem more tragic than others. There’s a risk that a football-video-game tournament will seem less urgent than a university or a place of worship. But this tragedy is no different than any. Once again, more people trying to live and play in America were shot dead in that innocent act for no reason, or for bad reasons.

published August 27, 2018