Any town could be Roseburg

Story highlights

  • Alafair Burke: Mass shootings have become so common that any place can fall victim
  • She says we need to remove barrier to government-funded research into this phenomenon

Alafair Burke is the best-selling author of 13 novels and a professor of law at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. She formerly was a deputy district attorney in the Multnomah County district attorney's office in Portland, Oregon, and says she will always consider herself an Oregonian. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)I spent much of the weekend convinced I had to rewrite a book I thought I finished months ago.

On Friday, I reviewed a letter my publicist had written to accompany advance readers' editions of my next novel. About 24 hours had passed since nine more innocent people were killed and nine others injured in another deadly rampage, this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
    Alafair Burke
    The first sentence of the letter quotes an endorsement from a best-selling author whose work I greatly admire: "With an all-too-real mass shooting in a richly-observed Manhattan as its springboard, THE EX. ..." A later paragraph refers more obliquely to a "violent tragedy" that leaves a main character a widower and single father.
      Readers who open the book will soon learn that the novel's protagonist grew up in Roseburg. They will see her wonder during a police commissioner's press conference following a triple gun homicide whether these tragedies have become so commonplace that law enforcement departments now have a public statement template at the ready.
        I immediately asked my publicist to hit the pause key on not only the letter but also the advanced distribution of the book.

        'Somehow this has become routine'

          Until I looked at the letter, it did not dawn on me to connect the horrific events in Umpqua to a work of fiction I completed several months ago. Like the rest of the country, I was still processing the news as my emotions bounced from profound sadness for the loss of innocent life, admiration for the selfless efforts of survivor Chris Mintz, pride for the public response of the state I called home for a decade, and anger and dismay that warning signs of potential violence in a mentally disturbed young man were ignored once again.
          The last thing I wanted to think about was a publicist's pitch letter.
          I woke up the next day with the intention of sending two emails: one to my publicist, asking how long we could w