The dramatic escalation of mass shootings in the United States in the past 15 years has caused a drastic desensitization to violence and death chiefly among younger generations who have only grown up to know this horrendous reality of shootings becoming commonplace. Mass killings and gun violence have been existent on U.S. soil for years; for example the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1929) saw seven men viciously shot in a public space. Nevertheless, these mass killings do not apply to this fairly new breed of killings that we see today.
The University of Texas shooting (1966), is considered by many to be one of the first modern mass shootings simply due to the fact that there was lack of motive, and most considered it to be the result of mental illness. However, this massacre still had a deep impact in the hearts of Americans. Similar instances of terror ensued with incidents such as the Kent State Shootings (1970) and the Unabomber killings (1978-1995). All of these events shocked the nation, and sent it into both a state of mourning and fear.
However, this reaction is not experienced in the same way by today’s generation. Many believe violent video games are a key factor in this desensitization of today, while others blame the senseless violence on TV. In fact, before the age of 18, people now see more that 18,000 TV deaths. Nevertheless, I believe these reasons to be completely false. Chiefly because children have been playing with toy guns, army men, and watching TV with violence (to a certain extent) for decades. I believe this generation’s desensitization is actually due to the shear volume of these shootings taking place.
Since 1990, 41 mass shootings with over five fatalities involving a single gunman have occurred. Furthermore, the U.S. leads the civilized world in mass shooting fatalities. Also, the media tends to focus on the killer himself, rather than the tragedy of the victims; this only encourages this new mindset of viewing these tragedies as simply another news story.
The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting (killing 27), the Orlando Night Club Shooting (killing 49), and, most recently, the Las Vegas shooting (killing 59) are only worsening people’s empathy, not necessarily at fault of their own but because of their inability to process this much loss and tragedy at this rate of consistency. The new generation needs to simply empathize more with the victims rather than politicizing the event and romanticizing the killer, not just viewing the events as “just another one.”