A Desensitized Nation

Mass shootings occurred more often in 2018 than any other year in US history. And no one seems to know how to slow them down.

There is not a set definition for the term “mass shooting.” But after the Sandy Hook shooting, The Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, signed into law in January 2013 by the US Congress, defined a mass shooting as an event killing at least three people, excluding the perpetrator. Other broader criterias require at least four victims be injured, though not necessarily killed.

As of January 3, the US had experienced over 340 mass shootings.  The most recent shootings were the first day of the year. The first was in Columbia, South Carolina. Five people were injured. That same day five others were injured in Tallahassee, Florida. Despite the shootings occurring 8 days ago, many people were not aware.

In recent years, mass shootings have become so common that Americans have become desensitized to shootings, specifically ones with a low death toll and ones that don’t affect individuals personally. According to Charles Figley, director of the Traumatology Institute and a professor of social work at Tulane University,

“There are two primary methods of dealing with a traumatic event: to respond or to put it out of your mind. That’s what’s happening now. We’re still shocked, but we watch the people in the communities where this has happened, and we see their shock, their unpreparedness.”

The media has slowly begun to filter out shootings as more and more of them occur. Researchers from Rowan University found only 72 percent of all mass public shootings in the U.S. during the 50-year period of 1966 and 2016 studied, were covered by The Times, a British newspaper.

Deputy Steven Mills, an SRO at Riverside, believes social media plays a huge role in how people react to shootings. This can be bad and good. It can make the public more aware of shootings, he said, but can desensitize people if they appear on their timelines every day.

“It helps the world become aware of events that no one who know about because there’s limited news reporters” Mills said.

The circumstances of a shooting also influence how much people pay attention to it. Senior Natasha Waters named the Synagogue shooting, which occurred in October, as the last mass shooting she was aware of.

“I’m Jewish and so is my friend so I remember discussing that one specifically” said Waters.

Other shootings Riverside students remember most vividly were the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the Butler High School shooting. The pulse shooting occurred over two years ago in a gay nightclub. The shooting remains one of the deadliest in US history;  at least 49 people were killed and more than 50 were injured.

In response to the increase in shootings, schools are considering new ways to keep students safe. The House Select Committee on School Safety has announced plans to use 35 million dollars to better improve school safety. $10 million will be used for mental health such as school counselors and nurses, $12 million for school resource officers, and $5 million for an anonymous tip line app for students. Three million dollars will be set aside for school safety equipment, another $3 million for training school-based mental health professionals, and $2 million for community partners to provide for students in crisis. However, while discussing the new grants to be put in place during a meeting on December 6, 2018, no one explicitly said that money was being used to prevent any mass shooting accident. Alex Granados a legislative reporter for EducationNC writes,

“The discussion was about how one kid with a gun shot another. And that gun ends up being the elephant in the room.”

Many schools have also begun teaching The Stop the Bleed program specifically in case of a mass shooting. Stop the Bleed, according to its website, is a national awareness campaign intended to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

DPS has yet to adopt the plan. Principle Tonya Williams was not aware of the program prior to a Pirates’ Hook interview but thought it could be a good addition to health classes.

“As long as the program provides students with comprehensive information regarding a mass shooting and not simply taught in isolation, it will benefit all members of our society” she said.

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