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The Normalization of Mass Shootings

The normalization of mass shootings has led to a cycle of inaction that will never allow real reform or change in regard to preventing more mass shootings.
On September 6th, 1949, Howard Unruh would kill 13 people while walking down his street, known as one of the first “mass shootings.” Unruh’s case was one of the early chapters in the book of American tales about an angry man with guns inflicting carnage. This tragedy would be one of the many incidents that America would face in the future, and always fail to prevent.
Mass murder or “mass shooting”, is a problem that has been recurring in America loosely tied to issues such as gun control and mental illness. This isn’t an article about gun control, gun accessibility, xenophobia, or mental illness. This is an article about how America has allowed itself to become desensitized and apathetic to the issue of mass shootings.
The FBI describe mass murder “as a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders.” With all the victims in one location, in a single ongoing incident. The term mass shooting come directly from the the method of murder in mass murder incidents, being either shot or dying from the gun wound.
The cycle of shock, apathy, and acceptance start weakly in 1966, just 17 years after Unruh, Charles Whitman opened fire from the school’s clock tower, killing 16 people and wounding 31. Then just 18 years later in 1984, James Oliver Huberty, a 41 year old out-of-work security guard, killed 21 employees and customers at a McDonald’s restaurant.
Over the next few years, mass shooting became more frequent; happening in 86’,89’,90’,91’, with mass shootings happening in more than once a year. It is obvious now that mass shootings were becoming more and more frequent.
It call came to a head in 1999 with the Columbine high school mass shooting, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 classmates and injured 24 more while planting homemade bombs throughout the school. This infamous event brought out serious discussion about gun control and school safety in Congress and the American society as a whole.
While it can be seen in schools across America today how strongly safety is prioritized, nothing came of gun control. With FBI background checks already been introduced in 1998, the only action taken was arresting and convicting the man who introduced a gun dealer to the teenagers, and the gun dealer himself, after the tragedy.
Columbine, while the most infamous, was only one of four mass shootings in that year. With more happening in 2000, 03’, 05’, 06’, with the frequencies of incidents rising to a minimum of two a years up to four a year.
In 2007 was the next big resurgence of nationwide panic over a mass shooting with the Virginia Tech shooting. Where a Seung-hui Cho, a 23-year-old undergraduate senior, killed 32 and injuring 17 in a dorm and an academic building in attacks more than two hours apart on the Virginia Tech campus. This incident lead to review and amendments to Virginia’s gun laws, specifically on the account the Cho was able to buy two semi-automatic handguns legally despite being medically diagnosed as mentally ill.
The theme of multiple mass shootings happens even today. With the latest mass shooting this year was two that happened on Nov. 24 where in one case five people were injured with one fatality and the other case having six injured and one fatality according to The Gun Arhive, a crowdfunded mass shooting tracker. So recent, yet so little publicity; why?
The biggest reason I can surmise would be concept of proximity in journalism, meaning people care for news regarding to the area they live in. While it makes sense that, comparatively, other mass shootingx, such as the Las Vegas shooting that injured 500 and killed 50, might have set an interest standard of how severe the mass shooting has to be to qualify as newsworthy. This doesn’t explain why Sutherland Springs Church shooting, with 26 dead and 27 injured, that only happens on Nov. 5 isn’t national news. I can tell you why.
The American society as a whole doesn’t care. We have created this cycle of tragedy that leads only to more tragedy. With mass shootings happening, everyone panic and demanding reform or change, the government going “we will work on it, thoughts and prayers to the victims”, and then everyone as a whole moving on! Nothing is changing and everyone has come to quietly accept these incidents as “something that happens” in life. It is beyond horrifying. It can be truly pinpointed when the cycle truly became ingrained in our society though.
On December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 year old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members after killing his mother in her home. This is known as the Sandy Hook shooting, and is the incident America gave in to the cycle.
While there was some good effort for change, with New York enacting the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act and Connecticut and Maryland adding more restrictions to their gun laws; this was the sum total of what changed.
America as a whole, let this incident go. They let the mass murder of children, go. The moment everyone stopped talking about the incident and stopped fighting for change, they normalised the mass shooting. Think about it, what is a worse victim for mass murder then children? And America let that slide with barely any reform. This is why we still have mass shootings today, because the worst possible victim have already been killed and let go, meaning that every other victim isn’t as bad.
This is why, we as a society, will never truly change enough to prevent. We are all so desensitised to mass shootings that we allow ourselves to care just enough to seem like normal good people, but in reality we allow it. Until people realise that they are perpetuating mass shooting, it will keep happening.
It is possible to make a change, this country is a democracy. Sign petitions, call local and state officials, go on marches, even just spreading word about it can be enough sometimes. If enough people do this, change is forced to happen because that’s how our society is supposed to be run. That being said, it is hard to not be cynical and see the government as this all controlling, evil, money-grubbing tyranny with everything going on and our new president.
In the end, it is better to have hope and fight for the change needed, then just sit back and be complacent in the yearly mass murdering of innocent people. Some people accept and do the reverse, allowing themselves to only care so much. This can be theoretically be attributed how accepted war and guns are in our society, but that’s a different article entirely.
The lesson here, is to simply care enough to actually want change. Even just that is a good step forward. One society as a whole should have taken a long time ago.