Editorial: Lincoln Park shooting and the questions why

Four people were shot and three of them were seriously or critically wounded at Lincoln Park in Columbus on a gorgeous spring evening Tuesday. Mass shootings are no longer things that happen in other places.

We hope for a full recovery for those wounded in this heinous crime, and we expect those responsible will be brought to justice.

We are grateful to police, medics and first responders who raced to the scene to administer life-saving aid, safeguard people in the area, gather evidence, and within a short time, apprehend two suspects. We also commend the many people at the park Tuesday evening who did what they could to aid the victims.

The well-worn wheels of the justice system will turn, but we feel raw.

Yet we also feel a civic and moral responsibility to ask the question why, over and over, even while realizing there may never be satisfactory answers.

Beyond questions such as why the suspects allegedly pulled up to Lincoln Park, opened fire, then sped away, and why cooler heads didn’t prevail, we must ask some other basic questions.

Why can’t we, as a society, persuade more people to lay down arms, because they are better than the dead end of violence?

Why has our culture become so toxically violent that it seems someone’s choice to pick up a gun and use it aggressively is simply an inescapable everyday fact of American life?

Why do we continue to accept this waking nightmare of horrific gun violence, which is literally now in our backyard?

Why isn’t anyone doing anything about any of this?

We admittedly have more questions than answers in the aftermath of a shooting that has altered the lives of more people in our community than just those who are victims or suspects.

If you out enjoying a lovely evening at Lincoln Park or nearby on Tuesday night and heard the sound of gunfire, it’s relatable if you feel a little differently about your community today. Perhaps less safe, perhaps more worried about whether anyplace is safe from violence anymore.

This is especially true because Lincoln Park and the Hamilton Ice Center on its grounds have been the scene of prior violent crimes. Most shocking was the 2020 stabbing of professional ice skater and instructor Emma Baxter-Valbuena. Ryan T. Halligan pleaded guilty to attempted murder in her brutal assault and is serving a 50-year prison sentence.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting, city officials are reassessing security at the park, and surely there are steps that can be taken to improve safety.

But Mayor Jim Lienhoop spoke the truth when he told The Republic’s Jana Wiersema, ““It’s really a difficult challenge to prevent an act like that. I just don’t know how we will ever get to the place where we know in advance that something like that will occur and then be able to arrest the person before they fire a shot. We don’t really have that ability.”

There is something you can do, though, as some of us here at The Republic do often, and will continue to do.

You can go to Lincoln Park. Observe nature. Walk the trails. Watch a ballgame. Have a picnic. Enjoy a nice spring day. Use this public park for its intended purposes. Breathe.

What we must not do is allow senseless acts of violence to define Lincoln Park or our community.