*This piece was written on Jan. 31, 2018, and does not include or refer to the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.*
In a time of social media and open press, there is a constant stream of information following us. Whether you’re opening Twitter or Facebook, someone you know has probably taken it upon themselves to assist in the spread of news. So why is it that we have only heard about one school shooting so far? As of Jan. 31, there have been 22 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 according to the Gun Violence Archive. The media has slowly begun to filter out shootings as more and more of them occur, especially those which have low death tolls. The last major shooting to receive the publicity it deserved was Las Vegas during which 58 people were killed. Yet nothing has been done.
There is an anticipation now, that large shooting and terrorist attacks are bound to come with mass gatherings. We’ve seen it at the Boston Marathon, music concerts and festivals and large cities like London and Paris. On New Year’s Eve, I sat on the couch holding my breath as the ball dropped, wondering if this was the year that millions of people from all over America and the world would be fleeing frantically from homemade bombs and assault rifles. But it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, for that I am ever grateful, but subconsciously there will always be that haunting fear. What I’ve come to realize in the past month is that I was wrong to think that Times Square at midnight is the most dangerous place. It’s your school, your job and your day-to-day life that is most terrifying. No one wants to say, “it could be me” when banners running across the nightly news read fatality numbers. As a student, I walk across campus without the faintest worry of being held at gunpoint in a library or dining hall. We deny and deny that any of the violence in the world can reach into our home lives.
I have a news app on my phone, as I’m sure many of you do, that sends notifications when a major story breaks on any one of the multiple news sources I have selected. I received one notification about the Kentucky school shooting and none for the other dozen or so. The frequency at which these shootings occur is so high, that the news would be entirely dedicated to addressing motives and mourning the lives lost to gun violence. When we isolate news to just talk about the “big” things — Kabul, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando — it prevents a greater panic. By not emphasizing each and every gun incident, we feel safer, when in reality there have already been over a thousand gun related fatalities in the U.S. this year. Not all of these are mass shootings, of course, but we selectively ignore the fact that guns cause more damage than we want them to. Even the attempted push for gun reform following the Las Vegas shooting has slowly diminished to almost nothing. The common appearance of mass shootings in social media has led to a cycle of mourning, outrage and the eventual fading of interest. This cycle has become so predictable that the government no longer feels obligated to take action knowing that the movement will dissipate. We’ve gone from seeing guns as a threat to being so numb to gun violence that mass shootings are expected. When the notifications pop up, we say, “not another one!” and go on with our day.
Julia Little is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org