Motorcycle Backfire Causes Commotion

Michaela Ely, Web Editor

When one visits New York City, the most memorable part of it is Times Square. 

People everywhere, cars honking and way too much traffic. But even with all this noise, it is a place that draws tourists like a moth is drawn to a flame.  But the feelings of awe can all change quickly when people are in fear. 

I was in New York City for a family trip when the news broke about the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. It was a horrific event that had impacts around the country. You could see the impact it had in the faces of everyone around you. 

A few days after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, there was a commotion in Times Square at about two or three in the morning. Everyone immediately thought that it was going to be another mass shooting. They later found out that the sound they heard wasn’t gunshots, it was just a motorcycle backfire.

I was in Jersey City at the time, watching the news because I hadn’t adjusted to the time zone yet. When the incident in Time Square happened, no one was sure what it was, whether it was another shooting. I saw the footage of people trampling each other and people screaming. I remember asking my dad the next morning, “Why would someone confuse a motorcycle backfire with the sound of gunshots?”

The United States has had 283 mass shootings as of Sept. 1. That is 283 shootings in 244 days. The rest of the world has had significantly less, both by country and in total.

What’s the difference between us and them? Bans on assault-style weapons, stricter background checks, all of the things that some legislators say “won’t work.” They say that they will just find other ways to get them.

What would a ban on assault style weapons do? What would stricter background checks do? At the very least, it would restrict access and make it harder to get these weapons. And that should be the goal. 

I don’t care if we ban all weapons, I don’t care if people can still find a way to get these weapons. I care that we find a way to reduce the death and destruction caused by these weapons. I care that we don’t have more mass shootings than days in the year.

Motorcycle backfires are common. Mass shootings should not be. People shouldn’t have to immediately assume that what they’re hearing is gunshots. What does this say about us as a society? 

This incident in Times Square should be a lesson to us all. When we get to the point where we are in constant fear of a mass shooting, to the point where we confuse the sound of a gunshot and a motorcycle backfire, we should learn from it.