Mass Shootings: The Rise Of An Issue

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Over the last twenty years, there has been an immense rise in mass shootings around the United States. Many people have suffered the effects of these mass killings not only physically, but mentally as well. The entire United States has felt the effect of it becoming more normalized in our daily lives. Although, many would disagree that it is not normalized because the government is currently attempting to fix the problem, but are they doing enough? Most would agree that they’re not. Some would also argue that it is not because the media will bring it to the forefront and raise attention to the situation. This raises another question, is the media over publicizing mass shootings? According to Fei, “A mass shooting is an act of firearm violence that resulted in at least four fatalities.” Shootings have become more common because of the rise in media coverage, whether it is the news or on social media. Also, the normalization in our society is becoming a major issue in these attacks.

A major cause of the rise in mass shootings is the media and how they portray the horrible events on television or social media. There was a total of one hundred mass shootings in the United States that have been recorded from January 1982 to May 2018, with 833 fatalities, and 1292 injuries. The shootings are occurring more frequently because of the media handing attention to the shooters and the extremely vile acts they have committed, and unknowingly inspiring others to do the same, also known as the “copycat” theory. The Las Vegas shooting back in 2017, was the spark that increased media attention to mass shootings. The time between Las Vegas and the following shooting was only seventeen days. Fei’s results showed that the high internet exposure was significantly correlated with a shorter interval between the corresponding shooting and the following shooting, proving the media has a heavy influence on future mass shooters (Fei). Soon, it won’t bother people anymore if these shootings continue like they are.

The “copycat” theory is just a theory, but very believable if proven. The trend that is happening is the shooters want to top the last person, and their body count. With every new mass shooter that innovates the way they attack, they provide new and better “blueprints” for the next shooter to come. Each new shooting normalizes this process and encourages more and more people to join. Then, the internet takes ahold and creates memes out of the situation. With the amount of internet attention a mass shooting receives a study estimated that in the aftermath of an attack, the shooter will hypothetically receive about $75 million in free media coverage. “Bigger body count means bigger headlines.” (Densley, Peterson)

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Mass shootings are also becoming more normalized in our daily culture. Before 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Mass Shootings took place roughly every six months. After Columbine, it was every two and a half months, then after Charleston, it grew to every six weeks. A typical shooting survivor is expected to say “I never thought it could happen here.” That is not the case anymore because after a gunman had killed ten people at Sante Fe Highschool in May 2018, Paige Curry said, “Eventually, it was going to happen here.” (Berkowitz) People around the United States are becoming more desensitized to the subject and it’s becoming more of an issue because if we become used to seeing the problem constantly, then it won’t be as much as a problem anymore. Eventually, no one will care enough to do anything about it.

Many parents may think that the cause of mass shootings is violent video games or what their children are watching on television. In fact, that is not the case, a new study suggests that there is no association between video games and other types of screen time and gun ownership among teens. Researchers analyzed data from the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Youth Risk Behavior System, which surveyed tens of thousands of teens, about fifty-five different behaviors over a period of ten years to identify factors associated with carrying a firearm (Understanding Gun) Behaviors that are related to gun possession ar heroin use, snuff on school property, an injury in a fight, and being a victim of sexual violence (Ruggles and Sonali).

The argument against media might be is to turn off the television or to avoid the subject online, but it is not that simple. Many people around the United States are feeling the effects of mass shootings, whether it was losing a loved one, or themselves being present at the shooting, have been injured or emotionally traumatized. Many survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and some will try to cope with substance abuse. Research also suggests that mass shooting survivors may be at a higher risk of developing a mental health disorder compared to other people that have experienced a traumatic event, like a natural disaster. A critical way to help victims cope with their trauma is to make them feel connected to their communities and to have a support system for them (Novotney).

Most mass shootings carry the stigma that the killer had a mental illness and that is the reason he/she committed this inhumane crime. About 3-5% of shooters are diagnosed with a mental illness before the shooting occurs (Understanding Gun). Not many gun-related violence is linked to mental illness. There is “a much stronger association with substance use, engagement in physical fighting, and exposure to sexual violence than with any poor mental health indicator” (Rajah). Most mass shooters have a stronger association with these effects than mental illness. Much of the increased risk of violence in people with mental disorders are related to other variables rather than to the disorder itself. Substance abuse, for example, accounts for a large proportion of the gradual risk (Understanding Gun). Branas states, “We need to think beyond simply guns and people, and start thinking about the environment that is promoting these shootings in the first place.”

The over publicized events and society becoming used to the shootings are ultimately affecting how people live their daily lives. They are growing in number and they’re not going to be stopped unless something is done about it. No matter how someone views this situation, most can agree that it is necessary for these horrible events to end. The lasting effects on survivors and the country as a whole are tremendous, and cannot be ignored. Action is being demanded by many across the country to change the United States’ violent tendencies. There needs to be a change in the government, whether it is stricter gun laws or more mental health resources. Finally, the attitudes and stigmas toward mass shootings need to change, for without restrictions there will be serious consequences. 

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