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Why Are There So Many Mass Shootings In the U.S.?
Why Does America Love Guns So Much?
Today, we are taking a look at one of the most tragic issues facing American society today: mass shootings. The shooting that occurred last week at Umpqua Community College is the latest instance of a problem that is truly confounding the U.S. TestTube News, DNews, and Seeker Daily will all be covering the issue today, each bringing a bit of perspective to some of the issues surrounding guns in the U.S.
Here, Trace explores the way U.S. society reacts to such tragedies and why there's a general feeling of apathy to such events. In his remarks after the Umpqua shooting, President Obama spoke about how the responses to mass shootings have become "routine." It's easy to see his point. There's a cycle to mass shootings. As events unfold, news outlets report on details on the ground. Reporters try to piece a narrative around the identity of the shooter: religious background, social tendencies, social media activity, the method of obtaining the weapon, etc. Liberals call for increased gun control just as conservatives say it's not the time to politicize such tragedies. Political leaders issue statements along the lines of "sending thoughts and prayers" to victims' families. After some amount of time, the story recedes from the news cycle.
It's all very familiar at this point. Why is that? There's some research that helps make sense of this. Anthony Downs, author of Up and Down with Ecology, describes the concept of "issue-attention cycle." Downs describes how, as a society, when a massive problem like gun violence emerges, we first are alarmed and somewhat in disbelief. Then, the more we learn about the problem, it becomes clearer that the issue is much more complex than we initially thought. Sometimes, we can establish institutions and policies to address issues, but, according to Downs, the cycle will be repeated. There can be another mass shooting at a movie theater, school, military base, etc. By this reasoning, Downs says we simply cannot approach each of these tragedies as a unique event and react to it in a unique, productive way.
So, unfortunately, we are in a slightly apathetic state when it comes to these shootings. The reactions and series of events that follow is all too familiar, but researchers like Downs frame it in a way that gets at our fundamental human instincts. Specifically, we simply cannot move forward beyond this state until we get concrete policy and institutional changes in place.
Mass Shootings Have Long History (DNews)
"According to the criminologists, the 1990s had the highest number of mass public shootings with a little more than 40 - an average of a little more than 4 each year."
A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013 (FBI)
"To provide further clarity on these threats, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014 initiated a study of "active shooter" incidents."
More than one mass shooting happens per day in the U.S., data shows (PBS)
"No matter how you define a mass shooting, one thing is clear: data suggests this brand of violence has grown worse in the United States."