Is America becoming desensitized to mass shootings?
Another day in America – another mass killing.
My phone began to vibrate. The notifications from CNN and the Associated Press flashed on my home screen. I ran from my journalism class in Marillac Hall to my house a block from campus, refreshing Twitter, desperate for answers. I flipped on my TV and the headlines screamed, “Gunman at the Navy Yard in D.C.”
No. Not again.
The first report was one injured. But slowly the number began to rise from one fatality to five dead, then 10 and finally 13 dead including the gunman.
In a matter of minutes, 12 innocent people were killed. They woke up for work, probably ate breakfast, drank a cup of coffee, complained that it was Monday, maybe watched the news, kissed their kids and spouses goodbye and walked out the door like any other early September morning.
They went to work in one of the safest places in the country – the nation’s capital – at the Navy Yard. They passed security, rode the elevator, maybe greeted an employee or two and then a little after 8 a.m., a gunman walked into the building and shot them dead.
They were parents, lovers, friends, grandparents and most of all—people. They were people doing what people do everyday. CNN said one woman killed was months away from retirement, another killed was recently divorced but still talked to his ex, his high school sweetheart, every single day and another loved to go fishing.
But they will no longer do what they love, because they were senselessly killed.
Now many reading this column will think, what does this have to do with St. John’s? How does this relate to us?
It has everything to do with us. This is the world we live in.
A few years ago, a man walked onto our campus, carrying a rifle. The campus was locked down, emergency notifications were sent out and thankfully things did not escalate. But they could have.
I spent the day on Monday watching the news, and that night while walking on campus I came across many friends. I asked all of them, ‘Did you hear about the killings at the Navy Yard?’ The answers were all pretty generic, ‘Oh, another shooting? That’s awful.’
This is more than just awful. I began thinking and asking my journalism friends, do you think America has become desensitized to these mass killings? Is it no longer a big deal?
Many of them agreed, yes.
Over the last year there has been almost a dozen mass killings. Some have dominated our headlines, while others were merely a two-minute segment on the evening news. We can’t go to the movies, school or work without wondering if a gunman could walk in at any moment and shoot us. Nowhere is safe, no one is safe.
This is America. Our citizens go to work, they go to school, they walk the streets and they are killed. Murdered—in America.
And yet, it is becoming normal. It’s normal to turn on the news and see the headlines, “15 dead in school shooting.” It has become a part of our reality and that is almost the scariest thing.
I don’t know the answer to fixing these mass shootings. Maybe it is a mental health issue, maybe gun control or background checks. I don’t know. I am not a politician. But I am a journalist. I am a journalist who will most likely have to cover these mass killings for decades to come. I hope to be a war correspondent one day, but I am realizing the war is already right here in this country.
I may not know the solution to gun violence, but one thing I do know for sure is that no matter how many of these shootings happen, no matter how many people are senselessly killed, we cannot become desensitized to it.
While watching the reporting after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I remember seeing CNN reporter Ashleigh Banfield crying while live reporting near the school. I remember thinking then, it is so important to not become insensitive to these shootings, even as a reporter.
We need to remember the people killed in these mass shootings are people. They are not just a number on a television screen or another statistic. They are parents, lovers, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. They need to be remembered, especially by us, the future of this country.
I hope I am never face-to-face with a gunman, or any of my friends or family members. I hope I will never have to report on mass shootings or killings. I hope one day I will live in a country where these shootings are nonexistent, but for now they are unfortunately a reality of our culture and society.
No matter how many of these mass shootings occur, no matter how many people are killed, I promise to not become numbed.
I promise to remember these people as people, to not forget. And as both a journalist and human being, I promise to not become desensitized.