I fear something I predicted long ago has now come to fruition: this country has become desensitized.
We are desensitized to violence; it is the new normal. While most of us don’t condone violence, there is an unspoken acceptance of its reality, which has made many people less shocked by the disturbing trend. It is the frequency of which we are subjected to violence that has reduced our shock value.
Tuesday there was a shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore., where a student at the school shot a teacher and killed another student before turning the gun on himself.
Throughout that day, I looked at various news websites as well as evening and late night news segments. The thing I found most disturbing was the fact that the shooting was not the “top news” focus of the various media outlets only hours after the tragedy occurred. It was as if a school shooting that resulted in loss of life was not “newsy” enough, presumably because there was another school shooting only days before the one in Oregon.
Making matters even worse was a quick informal survey I conducted among various people. I asked them if they were aware of the most recent shooting and if so, what were their thoughts on it.
Two people I spoke with were knowledgeable of the latest developments of the shooting. Another three people said they had not heard of the shooting, yet upon my informing them of the situation, they were not surprised that another school shooting had taken place. And the last person I spoke with said that he “tunes” out negative stories, regardless of the circumstances.
So select media outlets are not alone in their desensitizing. So too are individuals.
So what happens now? Where do we go from here?
Yes, we need to take a closer look at mental illness. We must also pay closer attention to the behavior and actions of individuals who may suffer from mental illness, but mental illness is not the only problem that we need to tackle to address the random acts of violence this country has been subjected to.
President Obama said it best Tuesday when speaking to members of the press.
“The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.”
So what’s the difference between the United States and other countries?
Again, Obama’s well-stated comment was right on target.
“The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses, and that’s sort of par for the course...We kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyone else.”
So yes, mental illness is part of the problem, but having access to guns is an even more significant issue. We have to limit an individual’s access to guns. It is that simple.
Those who disagree with me will say that people will always find a way to get a gun. I concur, but why must we make the process so easy for them?
Having stricter gun laws that extend beyond extensive background checks is the only way to limit access. The problem is Congress can’t put partisan politics aside in an effort to better safeguard the residents of this country.
In the 18 months since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., we have been subjected to 74 school shootings. Seventy-four senseless shootings within a year and a half! Such a startling fact should be ammunition enough (pun intended) for Congress to work together to more effectively protect our most treasured resources: youth.
How many more shootings must occur before true change is not only agreed upon, but also enforced? How many more parents must endure heartache and agony before the government acts in the public’s best interest? How many more innocent lives have to end before enough is enough?
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