On the morning of April 10, 25-year-old Connor Sturgeon walked into Old National Bank in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, where he had worked, and began shooting his AR-15-style rifle. Sturgeon killed five and injured eight, streaming it on Instagram. Police shot him dead in an exchange of gunfire.
It was the year's 146th mass shooting. Since then the number has swelled to 619, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Despite being part of a wider and darker statistical trend, Sturgeon’s story became unique — for the twisted messaging he left behind.
In his personal journal, released in a Louisville Police Department report this month, Sturgeon said he wasn’t sure if his mental-health struggles would keep him from purchasing a gun. He said he was “very sick” and indicated he hid his problems to avoid further treatment or institutionalization. And when he succeeded, he expressed awe at how simple it had been.
He wrote in an April 4 journal entry, for the world to read after the crime: “I have decided to make an impact. These people did not deserve to die, but because I was depressed and able to buy [guns], they are gone … Perhaps this is the impact for change — upper class white people dying. I certainly would not have been able to do this were it more difficult to get a gun. I know our politicians are solely focused on lining their own pockets, but maybe this will knock some sense into them.”
“If not, good luck.”
His logical counterpart would be a suicide bomber claiming in advance that his murder of others would be a statement against terrorism. But Sturgeon’s message, revealed posthumously, figures to have no impact on the nation’s perpetual strains over gun control. Neither do hateful manifestos on race, religion and ethnicity by other mass murderers, except maybe to inspire copycats.
Authorities apparently had no red flags in advance about this mentally disturbed person — broadly echoing the case of Payton Gendron, 18, who killed 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket last year after posting a rant against Black people. The gun was purchased legally in New York, with its high-capacity magazine bought out of state, officials said at the time. Gendron, who also had prior mental health issues, is serving a life prison term for domestic terrorism.
New York differs from other states in several ways. Our strict gun-permit rules fueled years of legal battles. Last year's milestone Supreme Court decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, struck down local permit laws that required “proper cause” to carry guns and expanded the framing of Second Amendment rights across the country.
Soon after, New York lawmakers amended the state's restrictions. But last month, a federal court struck them down. U.S. District Court Judge John P. Cronan said the NYPD could not keep withholding permits from an applicant who had prior arrests, a bad driving history, and allegedly false statements on the applications. Appeals are expected.
Even so, the Supreme Court may take other action to limit the sweep of its controversial Bruen ruling. On Nov. 7, it appeared ready to accept a judicial finding of “dangerousness” regarding gun ownership in domestic violence cases. “Someone who poses a risk of domestic violence is dangerous,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.
None of this addresses the fact that even in his deranged state, Connor Sturgeon had the common sense to know he had no business getting his hands on a semi-automatic rifle. He even put it in writing.
Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.