When will it end?
by Katelyn Cody
On Saturday, August 31, a gunman opened fire on a highway in Midland, Texas, marking the third mass shooting in the month of August alone. When the news notification popped up on my phone, my response was a short “Jesus, not again,” and then I went back to my business. The nonchalance of my response should be incredibly alarming, just as alarming as the lack of news coverage of a shooting that left seven people dead and twenty-five injured. Perhaps I just haven’t been watching the news as much as I usually do, and that is why I feel as though there has not been as much coverage of the Odessa shooting as there was for El Paso or Dayton earlier in the month. On the other hand, it very well might be true that there hasn’t been as much publicity and news coverage, and for that I have a one-word explanation: desensitization.
We live in a nation in which gun violence has become a normalized part of our culture. With each mass shooting, public outrage decreases and the American cultural experience has become so synonymous with the threat of gun violence that Amnesty International issued a “travel advisory” for foreigners traveling to the United States to be on high alert for possible acts of mass violence. Many people in the U.S. have brushed that advisory aside, calling it an exaggeration, but don’t you think that when a country becomes well-known throughout the world for the amount of violence taking place within its borders, the citizens of that country should be concerned en masse? In 2019 alone, 116 people have been murdered in mass shootings, and that number is too high. The United States Department of Justice defines a “mass killing” as having three or more victims. I think having even three victims per year would be too high because it should be zero. But these numbers don’t seem to phase us anymore. Here we are 20 years after the Columbine shooting, a dark day in American history that you think would have a drastic impact on our future, and yet mass shootings have become an even bigger problem since then.
As a psychology major, many of my courses throughout college have touched on the subject of habituation. Habituation occurs when a stimulus (object or event) is repeated so often that our response to it decreases. In this case, mass shootings happen so often in the U.S. that American citizens do not have the outraged reactions to gun violence that most would expect from the severity of such an act of violence. The example of habituation that we should use should be that of living in Campbell or Salice-Conley and getting so used to the sound of the Metro-North trains that it doesn’t phase you anymore, not that Americans die in mass shootings so often that we are able to hear about them on the news and just move on with our lives. It does not matter if we live in New York City and the latest mass shooting happened in Texas. That is still too close to home; anywhere is too close to home.
There is a tweet from Dan Hodges that I think sums up this whole situation the best: “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” And he’s right. Once we were able to move past the ruthless murder of twenty first-graders without any drastic change in legislation, nothing would truly change. If a scenario like that is not enough to convince people to give up their guns or make guns harder to get, I don’t know what will. Just because most of us haven’t been directly affected by a mass shooting, doesn’t mean we won’t one day, especially if America continues down the path we’re on, and that is a terrifying thing to think about. But it is something we have to think about. If we ignore this constant threat, nothing will get better.
However my past ramblings may sound, I am trying not to be too pessimistic. No matter how scary this world is and how on guard I have to be, I have hope. Young people today are showing their outrage toward gun violence and how unacceptable the gun laws in our country are. Student activists such as those from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have shown that our generation is not going to take this sitting down, and that makes me believe that things will change. But we can’t just sit back and think “Jesus, not again” whenever events like these happen. We can’t brush the news off so we can go on with our day; we need to be angry and outraged, yet hopeful for a bright future. We need to be anything but passive. We need laws that prioritize Americans’ lives over their guns.