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Mass Shootings Have Become Undeniably American

On November 7, 2018, a gunman burst through the doors of the Borderline Bar and Grille in Thousand Oaks, California and opened fire, killing 12 people, including Ventura County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, Ron Helus, and then himself. Yet again, lives were violently and suddenly taken, families were torn apart, and another community was shaken to its core with the reality that the unthinkable has happened right on their door steps. The shooter, David Ian Long, was an ex-Marine who reportedly suffered from PTSD and had no clear motive to commit the slaughter. He posted on social media as he committed the murders that he had no real reason for doing it.

Less than two weeks prior, on October 27, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and killed 11 members of the congregation. It was the deadliest act of anti-Semitism ever recorded in the United States. The perpetrator, Robert Bowers, had a clear motive in targeting the Jewish community. Bowers, an anti-Semite and white nationalist, frequently targeted Jews and posted anti-Semitic slurs on the “free speech” social media site, Gab. This act of domestic terrorism shed new light on the increasing regularity of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States.

The Thousand Oaks shooting on Nov. 7 was the 307th mass shooting in just 311 days of 2018. Mass shootings have nearly become a daily occurrence in the United States. When it comes to the distribution of mass shootings committed worldwide, the United States is an unfortunate and exceptional outlier. The United States holds only 5% of the world’s population, yet it was responsible for 31% of all the mass shootings worldwide between 1966 and 2012. As time has progressed, the United States has fallen even farther behind other westernized countries in preventing these slaughters from happening. There are more public mass shootings in the United States than anywhere else in the world.

 

 

A Deadly, Toxic Cycle

It seems that since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred in 2012, where 28 people were killed, most of them being children between the ages of six and seven, that the American public has become increasingly numb to the regular carnage that occurs. Much of this complacency has come because of the intense and often short-lived cycle that follows each of these shootings.

Whenever these acts of domestic terrorism occur, we see the headlines, we see the news coverage, we listen to the videos of the gunshots, hear the screams of the victims and pleas of the survivors and their loved ones, and then we react on social media; we send our thoughts and prayers and we give our two-cents about gun reform and the 2nd Amendment. We watch as our President visits the site of the shooting, gives his speech offering his thoughts and prayers, and reassures us that it was an act of evil committed by a “sick” or “disturbed” individual. Eventually, as the days pass and new events and headlines enter the news cycle, we stop talking about the massacre, we forget the names of those killed, and the crushing reality that nothing will be done to prevent the next slaughter goes lull in our collective conscious. It is not until the next gunman fires his shots that we commence this cycle once again, whether it be a few days, weeks, or months later.

We are trapped in this endless cycle of slaughter, sorrow, pain and loss. While we feel our hearts ache for those directly affected, we are still plagued by complacency, because after the coverage leaves our television screens or social media feeds, our lives will go on just as they did before each shooting. This applies to our elected officials as well, who have the power to find a solution to this public health and safety crisis yet are never able to find the common ground needed to make any real progress. Our reactions to mass shootings have become a routine facade, lacking the determination and motivation to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again.

Our Inherent Acceptance

It seems with each shooting we become more accepting of the idea that the regular occurrence of these massacres is just a phenomenon that is a condition of human society. We believe that it is our responsibility to adapt to this new reality. We have prompted ourselves to feel as if we need to live in constant fear, and in anticipation of a mass shooting. Americans can no longer feel safe in malls, movie theaters, places of worship, schools, concerts, bars, clubs, etc. Whether we realize it or not, Americans live in constant fear, feeling as if we need to arm ourselves, anticipate the pop of gunshots, and plan what we are going to need to do to survive. In order to protect our Constitutional right “to bear arms,” we have compromised so many other aspects of our basic freedoms, and this is because we have convinced ourselves that it is the sacrifice we must make.

Because we have become so exposed to these shootings so often, with no clear action or solution presented by our elected officials, collectively as a society, we have accepted that it is our new reality to deal with and prepare ourselves for the next one that occurs. We are led to believe that there is no way for these massacres to be prevented. Even those who advocate for common sense gun reform have begun to feel helpless because the carnage continues, but nothing changes.

The volatile mixture of the frequent and numbing exposure to this violence, getting trapped in the reoccurring cycle of news coverage, thoughts and prayers, and complacency, and the inaction and shallow concern shown by our leaders has led us to allow these shootings to become part of our culture. We feel that they cannot be prevented, but that they must be anticipated. Mass shootings have never been a condition of human society, but we have allowed them to become a condition of American society.

 

 

Stay Hopeful, Stay Vocal

With the overbearing realities of our country’s problem with gun violence rearing its ugly head so regularly, with no solution or end in sight, it is easy to feel hopeless and helpless. Do not allow yourself to become numb to or complacent and accepting of these shootings as our inherent culture. We make up American society and we have the power to change its norms and values.

We must stay persistent, passionate and in-touch with our humanity to will the changes, the policy, and the reform we need out of our elected officials and government leaders. Call your senators and local representatives, let them know that their constituents want their safety and freedom to be protected. Make gun reform a priority-issue when you vote for government officials and be wary of the politicians who are submissive to the wants and motives of gun lobbyists. The right to bear arms should still exist, but common-sense gun reform should be non-negotiable given the regularity and brutality of gun violence in our country. The right to own a firearm should be one that is regulated and earned, and our politicians need to prioritize making that a reality.

We do not need to be directly affected by the epidemic of mass shootings to feel galvanized into demanding action and change. Act and speak out in the name of the school children, worshippers, movie-goers, music fans, shoppers, and every single individual murdered at that hands of a gunman. For the sake of yourself, your loved ones, your children and your fellow Americans, stand firm in demanding and maintaining that these tragedies can and will be prevented.

Complacency and inaction are contagious. Do not give in to the societal conditioning that expects us to believe we are powerless in changing the makeup of our culture. The carnage and hatred that we are so regularly exposed to in these mass shootings will not and cannot continue, and the power to end this undeniably American trend is with us. With hope, persistence, and collective humanity, we can make mass shootings un-American.

Hi there! I'm Taryn, a junior journalism major and public relations/sociology minor at Hofstra University! 
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