Jeffrey Johnson: Empire State Building Shooter Will Become the Face of the US Gun Control Debate


The Empire State Building attack, mass Chicago shootings, Texas A&M, Aurora, and the Sikh Temple tragedy in Wisconsin. 

Throughout the summer, there have been so many public shootings that satirical publication The Onion was prompted on Thursday to run a story headlined “Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting.”

Ironically, on Friday morning, Jeffrey Johnson became the latest gunman to open fire on a crowd, killing one and wounding eight (to which The Onion amended their sub-headline to read “Update: Never Mind”).

If these shooting stories are seen as part of a wider series on the gun problem in American, than the Empire State shooting will be the one story that will force all Americans — politicians and average citizens alike — to place major focus on the gun control debate, especially as it relates to election 2012.

Why? Simply because news outlets will make this among the most highest-profile shootings which have been covered … and only because this particular incident happened right outside these outlets’ doorsteps.

On Friday morning on the 33rd Street entrance to the Empire State Building during the bustling Midtown New York rush hour, Jeffrey Johnson gunned down his ex-boss and wounded 10 bystanders on a crowded sidewalk.

Johnson was fired on Thursday from Hazan Imports, located in the Empire State Building, where he was an employee for six years. He wore a business suit and carried a briefcase when he shot and killed his victim near the 33rd street entrance to the iconic Midtown New York building.

Though this shooting may pale in comparison in terms of the amount of victims and violence carried out in the Aurora and Wisconsin incidents, the event comes in the heart of America’s media center. As a result, expect this story to explode on the front pages of countless news outlets.

The Wisconsin Sikh shooting claimed six people and rocked a minority community to its core, but there was surprisingly little media coverage of the event at the time — to which the media was criticized.

Johnson has claimed only one victim so far, but his story is likely to reap significant amounts of exposure for one reason: it was right outside our front door.

Media outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press, and PolicyMic all call Midtown home. Because major media outlets are located near the shooting, expect coverage to be disproportionately saturated. Large media outlets will likely devote higher amounts of coverage because the issue is so close to home.

And everyone knows that New York is the center of the world. At least us New Yorkers think so.

Stemming from this coverage will be renewed interest in the gun control debate. As media outlets scramble to find unique angles to cover the story, they will undoubtedly settle on the gun control issue, pushing that to the forefront of reader’s attention. Politicians and voters will take note, and the gun control issue may become the hot policy debate of election 2012. As a result it will likely be James Holmes and now Jeffrey Johnson who become the face of this debate.

Jeffrey Johnsons’ action — not the neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page in Wisconsin, the Texas A&M shooter, or the the 13-year-old Brooklyn boy killed on Friday morning in another New York shooting — will be the driving force behind this conversation.