Af­ter back-to-back mass shoot­ings, Amer­ica grows numb

Kuwait Times - - News -

WASH­ING­TON: When a gun­man en­tered a Cal­i­for­nia mu­sic bar this week and started fir­ing, some of the pa­trons ran out of back doors, they smashed win­dows to es­cape, they hid. Un­like some mass shoot­ing vic­tims, they were not par­a­lyzed by fear. But their quick ac­tion was not nec­es­sar­ily in­stinc­tive. Sev­eral of those at the Border­line Bar and Grill in Thou­sand Oaks on Wed­nes­day had been through a mass shoot­ing be­fore - when a gun­man opened fire on a crowd of coun­try mu­sic fans in Las Ve­gas last year, killing 58.

“Un­for­tu­nately, these young peo­ple have learned that this may hap­pen,” Ven­tura County Sher­iff Geoff Dean said fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day’s shoot­ing by a Ma­rine com­bat vet­eran that left 12 dead in Thou­sand Oaks. Even in a coun­try that has be­come ac­cus­tomed to gun mas­sacres, the idea that some Amer­i­cans have lived through not one, but two at­tacks is star­tling. “It’s in­sane is the only way to de­scribe it,” Cal­i­for­nia’s Demo­cratic Gov­er­nor-elect Gavin New­som said. “The nor­mal­iza­tion, that’s the only I can de­scribe it. It’s be­come nor­mal­ized.”

The south­ern Cal­i­for­nia slaugh­ter came on the heels of an­other mas­sacre, when Robert Bow­ers, who openly spewed ex­treme anti-Semitic in­vec­tive, al­legedly burst into a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue and killed 11 Jew­ish wor­ship­pers. The Gun Vi­o­lence Ar­chive, which tracks mass shoot­ings in which at least four peo­ple were shot or killed, said the Thou­sand Oaks as­sault was the 307th mass shoot­ing this year. In other words, a mass shoot­ing takes place some­where in Amer­ica al­most daily.

Back-to-back shoot­ings have left many Amer­i­cans feel­ing jaded to the hor­ror, said Gregg Carter, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Bryant Univer­sity in Rhode Is­land. “A con­stant bom­bard­ment of bad news is un­healthy for us both men­tally and phys­i­cally,” he told AFP. “Amer­i­cans are turn­ing them­selves off emo­tion­ally to mass shoot­ings as a self-pro­tec­tion mech­a­nism.” A sort of switch-off can be seen in the me­dia too. Whereas a mass shoot­ing used to dom­i­nate the news cy­cle for a week or more and garner sat­u­ra­tion cable news cov­er­age, such in­ci­dents nowa­days are re­ceiv­ing much less air time.

This “pub­lic fa­tigue or fa­tal­ism” is partly due to a bar­rage of other big events crowd­ing out the story, and partly it’s be­cause po­lit­i­cal de­bate about how to ad­dress the prob­lem is stuck, noted Robert Spitzer, po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the State Univer­sity of New York, Col­lege at Cort­land. Guns rights are en­shrined in the 2nd Amend­ment to the US Con­sti­tu­tion and Repub­li­cans are loathe to dis­cuss any sort of gun con­trol, of­ten re­act­ing to gun vi­o­lence by of­fer­ing “thoughts and prayers” to the vic­tims but lit­tle else.

“How­ever, the gun is­sue is more on the minds of vot­ers than ever, and there is good rea­son to be­lieve that sup­port for stronger gun laws is a win­ning is­sue for can­di­dates this year,” Spitzer told AFP. The mother of a young man who sur­vived last year’s gun mas­sacre in Las Ve­gas, only to be killed by the Cal­i­for­nia gun­man, made an im­pas­sioned plea for gun con­trol. “I don’t want prayers, I don’t want thoughts, I want gun con­trol and I hope to God no­body else sends me more prayers. I want gun con­trol. No. More. Guns,” said Su­san Sch­midt-Or­fanos, whose son Telemachus was a 27-year US Navy vet­eran.

An­other somber re­flec­tion of Amer­ica’s mass shoot­ing cri­sis can be seen around Wash­ing­ton and across the coun­try, where flags on gov­ern­ment prop­erty are fly­ing at half-mast. In a flag-ob­sessed na­tion, the fre­quency with which the Stars and Stripes now flut­ters in mourn­ing is hard not to no­tice. When it was low­ered Thurs­day, barely a week had gone by since it was raised again fol­low­ing the mass shoot­ing in Pitts­burgh. — AFP

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