Recent gun violence showcases desensitization, normalization


Lily Rachwalski

The Southerner viewed the New York Times website front page for 40 days, in between April 1st and May 9th. Only 4.9% of stories were about gun violence, the same amount of stories there were about Taylor Swift.

Lily Rachwalski

In the first week of May there were 21 mass shootings in the United States. Just five months into 2023, there have already been over 208 mass shootings. This means we are averaging more than one mass shooting a day, and based on news coverage, the narrative seems to be that Americans just don’t care. 

When mass shootings are in the news, it seems obligatory that they be reported on. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has only mentioned gun violence twice in the months of April and May. Just twice, when we’re averaging over one mass shooting in the United States a day. One of these times was the day after the Allen, Texas shooting, where it was announced that the flag would be flying at half-mast in honor of the victims. The other was a one-minute segment that served as a transition into criticizing House Republicans on a border security bill. If the White House and President, the leader of the United States, don’t see gun violence as a top issue, why should normal Americans?

In Atlanta, on the day of the Northside Hospital Shooting, the energy in Midtown High School seemed unconcerned, despite there being a gunman just down the road from the campus on 10th street. Shootings like this and the one in Allen, Texas have become part of our normal lives, and the news about them has become uninteresting and predictable to readers. 

The Southerner observed the New York Times website front page for 41 days, in between April 1st and May 10th. In this time, only 2/41 stories (4.9%) featured gun violence. Taylor Swift and her Eras tour also accounted for 4.9% of the front page stories, showing the paper’s lack of concern for covering gun violence. Fox News, a conservative leaning news outlet, did not feature shootings at all, and instead pushed articles such as the Trump Indictment and Biden’s border policy. There were over 77 mass shootings during this time period. We cannot forget that these websites, despite being news organizations, are for profit. They want to feature stories that their audiences care about and that will encourage readers to keep or buy subscriptions. If Americans don’t want to hear about shootings, they won’t force us to, and will instead give us things we might perceive as more interesting, like news of Taylor Swift.

We as a society have become extremely desensitized to gun violence. Americans have become accustomed to frequent mass shootings, and the lack of attention from government officials and news outlets contributes to this normalization. The normalization of gun violence has a numbing effect on society, making it easier for people to overlook the issue and accept it as a part of everyday life.

Shopping Malls, Hospitals, Schools, Grocery Stores — nowhere is safe from gun violence anymore. Going to a ‘safe part of town’ means nothing when shootings are happening anywhere and everywhere. The apparent truth is that this is the new normal and Americans have accepted that, despite multiple proposed solutions. 

Almost all of the solutions involve reducing the number of guns in the US population. Reducing youth firearm access, requiring safe storage, insisting on mandatory gun training, screening for mental health before purchase and increasing the cost of guns like Assault Rifles, which are exceptionally deadly firearms commonly used in mass shootings — all of these would help keep guns out of dangerous hands, but would largely not affect responsible gun owners. 

Americans are extremely misinformed on what gun control policies actually do. These regulations wouldn’t make it so you can’t go prairie dog hunting, as Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota said he needed an AR-15 for. AR-15’s are extremely similar to M-16’s, a gun U.S. soldiers use in Iraq to kill people. Prairie dogs, in comparison, only weigh one to three pounds, however, many still insist that lethal assault weapons are necessary for hunting. 

Gun control won’t stop people from keeping a gun for self protection either. The guns that are recommended for protection are significantly different in size, style, and cartridge size from assault rifles and other guns used in mass shootings. Change will only occur if the mindsets of the masses change. The first step to stopping mass shooting deaths is to recognize that we need to minimize the sale of deadly weapons, and put in place more effective gun control.

Though the House and Senate Republicans will likely never pass an overarching gun control bill, they need to collaborate with Democrats to help prevent even more mass shootings in America. What’s happened in Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama just this past week is unacceptable. Let’s start supporting regulations, bills and reforms that reflect that.