A mass shooting is an incident where multiple people (at least four) are killed due to firearm violence. While mass shootings occur all over the world, they have plagued the United States for decades. One may wonder how an individual can build up the hate and anger to slaughter innocent men, women, and children.
Mass shootings do not just start with hate and end in death, they result in a crippling aftermath unlike any other crime, because loved ones who are left behind feel the effects for a lifetime.
The U.S. experiences a mass shooting every 12.5 days (approximately twice per month). While the U.S only makes up 5% of the Earth’s population, but it accounts for 31% of the worlds mass shootings. However, America’s fore fathers wrote the second amendment along with the rest of the constitution in order to prevent tyranny. Therefore, putting guns in the hands of every citizen was never intended to kill our neighbors, but rather to protect ourselves government overreach. Now over two hundred years later, the gun is no longer seen as a means of protection, but, as the reason innocent people are killed. It is not surprising that every U.S citizen is on edge, whether they are at the mall, in church, at school, or simply walking down the street, because there is a relatively high possibility that someone will open fire. In the era of technology, new weapons have found their way into the wrong hands. With the power of a high-powered automatic machine gun, perpetrators can maximize the number kills from 10 to 50 people with a few simple modifications to the gun. Fortunately, police have improved their tactics and response times to bring shooters down before they can cause too much damage. However, by nature, the work of police officers and law enforcement officials is reactive. Thus, in order to solve this problem, identifying the source is imperative.
“A report published by the Congressional Research Service (Bjelopera et al., 2013) estimates that at least 78 public mass shootings transpired between 1983 and 2012. Together, these violent incidents have resulted in more than 540 casualties and injured approximately 480 persons.” (Lemieux, F. Pg. 1) Unfortunately, no pattern has been identified, and these incidents are not distributed throughout history, rather, there is a sharp increase since the early 20th century. “Despite the increasing number and intensity of these crimes over the past decades, mass shootings remain too sporadic and hard to detect or predict (no hotspot concentration) since most mass shootings are perpetrated by one offender who is often socially isolated.” (Lemieux, F. Pg. 2) Therefore, if shooters are socially isolated, they are looking for recognition and their time to take center stage. Recent studies have shown that the media’s power and influence has given perspective shooters the platform in which they can literally have their name in lights and feast on the recognition they crave. With fully mature research, the results now show that when a mass shooting occurs and receives media attention there is an increase in the probability of another attack taking place within the next 13 days. The contagion effect, also known as the “copycat effect” has been suggested to be the link between media coverage and the span of time between mass shootings. The contagion effect has not just been studied regarding mass shootings, but also binge eating, airplane hijackings, and suicide. When a mass shooting event occurs, there is extensive media coverage, and for the most part, it is not always perceived as negative… at least to the shooter. Simply having their name on television is enough to make it worth killing people. “This coverage often repeatedly presents the shooter’s image, manifesto, and life story and the details of the event, and doing so can directly influence imitation.” (Meindl, J. N., & Ivy , J. W.) In an effort to slow down the “copycat effect” the FBI along with other agencies came up with the “Don’t Name Them” campaign. This effort helps minimize the fame and recognition that shooters desperately desire to escape social isolation. In a remarkable interview, following the shooting in Orlando which took the lives of 49 innocent people James Comey (Former FBI Director) took every measure to make sure the shooter was not notarized, published, or mentioned on for the largest mass shooting in Americas history (at the time). Comey said: “You will notice that I am not using the killer’s name and I will try not to do that. Part of what motivates sick people to do this kind of thing is some twisted notion of fame or glory, and I don’t want to be part of that for the sake of the victims and their families, and so that other twisted minds don’t think that this is a path to fame and recognition.” Therefore, with the power of the media, the United States can effectively reduce the number of mass shootings. Per the results of recent research, if shooters are covered in a negative light the “copycat effect” would be destroyed. Once the negative light is shining on them the appeal for perspective shooters is diminished and the probability for another shooting drops dramatically. However, the first step must be to make the public aware that there is a strong link between the media and imitation.
Since mass shootings have become an almost “normal” occurrence on the news over the past decade. The issue of gun control has been a highly debated topic throughout the country and has become prevalent in even the safest areas. The debate is relatively simple, one side of the debate is advocating for the protection of the second amendment (right to bear arms). This side believes that gun violence can be reduced using situational forces i.e. armed guards and increased police presence in public areas. Research shows “the reputation of handguns to young adults in the U.S. is much more anchored in a belief system related to liberty and independence and reinforced by the “right to bear arms” protected by the Second Amendment.” (Lemieux, F. Pg. 3) However, the other side is pushing for restrictions of military style (machine guns) weapons with a large ammunition capacity. Is this a violation of the second amendment? Both sides are built to scrutinize the other, in order to produce the best solution. However, imperfect people create imperfect solutions, but the root of the issue may not be the weapon used but rather the person standing behind it. Of course, the media blames the mentally ill, but according to the American Journal of Public Health pinning this problem on the mentally ill is a mistake. Their research shows most people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent crimes. They insist that only about 4% of violence can be attributed to people with a “mentally ill” diagnosis. “A growing body of data reveals that US gun crime happens when guns and people come together in destructive ways. Gun violence in all its forms has a social context, and that context is not something that “mental illness” can describe nor that mental health practitioners can be expected to address in isolation.” (Metzel, J. M., & Macleish Pg. 3) From federal agencies, to academic institutions, everyone is looking for better ways to understand how to effectively prevent mass killings. Regardless of our desperate attempts to attack each other politically neither side wants another tragedy like the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. However, immediately following the incident the entire country jumps to gun control legislation, but there is no guarantee that new gun control legislation will stop the next attack. The American Journal of Public Health argues that by combining gun control legislation and situational factors we may address the source and the solution. “Connections between loaded handguns and alcohol, the mental health effects of gun violence in low-income communities, or the relationships between gun violence and family, social, or socio-economic networks are but a few of the topics in which mental health expertise might productively join community and legislative discourses to promote more effective medical and moral arguments for sensible gun policy.” (Metzel, J. M., & Macleish Pg.8) Therefore, in order to pull back the reins on mass shootings, we must come together to find common ground. It is essential that we stop disagreeing and start seeing eye to eye, so future action regardless of political party can be taken. Therefore, coming together will mean understanding the interrelated nature of gun control, social networks, and mental illnesses. The solution isn’t simply forgetting about new gun control legislation, because it may prevent a future attack. However, making that our sole focus is a mistake and does nothing to address the issue at the source. Making gun control our sole focus is simply addressing the symptom of a problem and turning a blind eye to the source. If we don’t address the source soon the American public remains in great danger.
On the other hand, while the American public feels the effects of mass shootings, so do the people who are working tirelessly during chaos to save lives. EMS, Police, and Firefighters are not only incredibly brave, but the American public can lean them in their time of need. ‘They are the ones who spend sleepless nights replaying moments of trying to stop bleeds and informing loved ones in waiting rooms about the suicides, homicides, and mass shootings that make up the nearly 34,000 gun deaths each year,’ () Public servants are some of the only people that can take their life saving skills into the field and save life while live rounds are flying over their head. However, effort to save life doesn’t guarantee a positive result, some pass away right there on the ground, during transport, or in the hospital. Therefore, it is no surprise that being a first responder entails sacrifice, and a portion of that sacrifice is the heavy burden first responders carry when someone dies in their arms. Symptoms are very real and they “include nightmares, insomnia, memory problems, paranoia and flashbacks. If these symptoms persist, it will affect the ability of first responders to complete their jobs later in their careers.” () First responders run into danger, jeopardize their safety, even if they survive the effects of PTSD could end their career, but they do it every day with out recognition from the media or any credit from the public. They experience a range of emotions just like everyone else, but their servant attitude keeps them going. Hopefully, the horror of mass shootings is over, but if it isn’t then the American public can rest assured there is a team of life saving individuals who will not only eliminate the threat but save life in the process.
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