Americans are fatigued by the coverage of mass shootings


Erin Hooley

According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of April 22, 2021 there has been 157 mass shootings

Kaitlin Clapinski, Editor-and-Chief

In 2020, there were over 43,000 deaths related to gun violence, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The United States has a gun problem that defines our nation. Students who attend schools are taught at an early age what to do if there is an assailant on the loose. Going to movie theaters, restaurants, bars, clubs, and music festivals, our instinct is to listen to that voice in our head saying, “What if something were to happen?” “Where could I hide?” “Where is the nearest exit?” 

Our gun problem is not only evident, but potentially traumatizing for future generations to come. 

When a mass shooting occurs, it is hounded by journalists and covered in all forms of media as breaking news. Although pertinent news, it is evident that we are numb to it. The Onion published a now-famous article in 2017, “‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” and it resurfaces when a mass shooting occurs and no action is taken to prevent the next. Some could argue it is wrong to satirize a tragedy where there are victims. However, I would argue it is wrong to be complacent.

So, are mass shootings and gun violence worthy of news given our complacency? Well, the answer isn’t black and white. It is imperative as a society that we honor the victims of senseless gun violence through any means possible. Sharing stories from victims of senseless gun violence provides a sense of humility. These people were simply going about their everyday lives and were failed by all of us. We as a collective had the power to enact proper gun laws that could have easily prevented their deaths. In a way, providing these stories can instill a call to action for Congress, voters, and American citizens. But how many times can we call to action, without the action?

At this point, our inaction regarding these victims and their experiences is embarrassing, ignorant, and inhumane. Past survivors and families of victims have to watch as we continue to publish stories about the victims of gun violence and breaking news about the latest mass shooting, while nothing ever gets done. 

It may be doing more harm than good to cover stories about gun violence given our continued ignorance and or laziness to enact stricter gun laws and outrage on lack thereof. Although it is not necessarily journalists’ fault for doing their jobs, there has to be a way that we, as journalists, can honor these victims without retraumatizing them through repeated news cycles. It is clear that news coverage of these events is not helping towards legislative action and it simply further illustrates the issue at hand of the normalization and numbness we feel to gun violence as a nation.

While I’m no political scientist, social theorist, or professional journalist with a plan, I can offer you this: I would argue that changing the discourse surrounding gun control from a partisan political issue to a nationwide crisis would result in positive change. Although the National Rifle Association donates to 167 House Republicans to a measly 3 Democrats, we have seen that gun violence does not discriminate based on party preference. Even so, as of 2017, more Americans are more in favor of stricter gun regulation, according to the Pew Research Center. Moreover, 91% of liberals and 92% of conservatives believe in barring those with a mental illness from being able to purchase a gun. Continuing the trend, 93% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans believe in making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. 

Regardless of party affiliation, the American people want stricter gun laws. By dividing the media coverage into warring Democratic and Republican factions, it effectively creates a feeling of, “It’s their fault, not mine,” when a mass shooting occurs. In a sense, it divides the guilt and continues the normalized numbness we feel as a society towards gun violence in general. Gun control is not a partisan issue, it’s an American issue. We are collectively failing as a country to come to terms with that idea. The sooner we realize that enacting stricter gun control regulations is a collective action issue, the closer we can get to creating a bipartisan plan to begin to tackle creating stricter gun laws and educating voters who may fall in between. However, through understanding, education, and the media’s proactive involvement, it might just be possible to realize positive change.

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