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Dubroff: Measuring time by massacres, from Columbine to Boulder

By   /   Friday, March 26th, 2021  /   1 Comment

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When you count the decades by the mass shootings you’ve covered, something is very, very wrong.

But that’s the way it is in America, and the shootings are coming so fast and furious right now, I’m afraid we’re becoming numb to the onslaught.

We’re a big country with a history of protecting gun rights and a vocal gun lobby, so the conventional wisdom is that we will continue to shrug our shoulders, accept the risk and move on.

Henry Dubroff
Henry Dubroff
From the Editor

But families and communities hit by gun violence are growing in number. They live with the loss of innocent lives, but they don’t necessarily forget. And who wants to accept the risk of being killed for walking into the grocery store?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the Business Times and its 21 years of covering business and financial news on the Central Coast. Here is another way of measuring the time: The Pacific Coast Business Times was born in the shadow of the Columbine High School shootings.

I was researching the Central Coast and editing the Denver Business Journal in April 1999, when two students shot up the school, killed students and staff and set the nation on a deadly course. My staff was shocked, and insisted that we remake the entire newspaper to focus on the tragic events, emergency response and the overwhelmed health care system.

In July 2012, I woke up in our Denver house, ready to pack up our dog, Pica, and make the long drive to Santa Barbara for an extended visit. I awoke to the news of the Aurora theater shootings. A wave of depression enveloped the entire community, and I felt better for leaving.

The Isla Vista rampage of 2014 prefigured what happened in Boulder in 2021. It has also been called the first of the alt-right killings in America. The community’s response was noteworthy, and the legacy of those murders affects Isla Vista and UCSB to this day.

In November 2018, I left a California Lutheran University reception at a wine tasting room in Ventura County, and on the drive home to Santa Barbara heard the first reports of a shooting at a country music nightclub in Thousand Oaks. The next morning, I witnessed the parade for slain Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, tried my best to console close friends who work in county government and drove by the scene.

As I write this, preparations are underway for the demolition of the Borderline Bar and Grill, the once-popular spot destroyed by madness.

On March 23, the Borderline mass shooting was on my mind as I watched press coverage of the shooting of 10 people in cold blood by an angry young man in Boulder, Colorado, at a King Soopers grocery store.

During the pandemic, your local King Soopers, as with grocery stores everywhere, has become the beating heart your community if you live on Colorado’s Front Range. Everybody may not know your name, but they know your favorite order at the deli counter and welcome you back if you’ve been gone.

It is my hope that corporate America will wake up to the problem of gun violence and put its efforts to work on reasonable policies to protect the places where we work, worship and shop.

We’ve had a reasonably successful run at the Business Times and we can easily tick off our awards, accomplishments and innovations. But there is a through line from Columbine to Aurora to Isla Vista to the Borderline to Boulder. It is tearing at the fabric of our society. And our economy.

And when you look for a cause, all too often it is a troubled young man who has easy access to high-powered weapons.

• Business Times Editor Henry Dubroff can be reached at

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1 Comment

  1. Anita Busch says:

    Thank you for writing this article, Henry. You are right that it is horrific to measure time by mass shootings. I am a journalist as well. We have had two mass shootings in our family now, one where Micayla was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting and another in Vegas where Stacy survived. My nephew was only two blocks away at the time of the Dayton shooting. It’s madness, indeed. I have now helped behind the scenes in 23 mass shootings to date advocating for victims (some with the father of an Isla Vista murder victim).

    I remember years ago as well when Columbine happened and I had written a column for The Hollywood Reporter (where I worked) asking for the entertainment industry to do the right thing and stop marketing violent video games to children. I feared that these kids were learning bad conflict resolution skills — “if there is a problem, you you kill it.” Little did I know the fate my family would go through years later.

    I don’t know the answer anymore to this, but I do feel very strongly about whatever business you are in — journalism, video games, the mental health field or gun manufacturers and sellers, or politicians that have power to help — you must step and do the right thing for the greater good of society.

    I’ve been journalism my entire career and I am a proponent and helped with the NoNotoriety protocol/campaign. I continue to advocate on behalf of victims of mass casualty crime.

    This is not the America either of us grew up in. It saddens me greatly. We can never become numb to it for if we do, we have lost our humanity.

    Thank you for penning this powerful column.

    Anita Busch