In America there have been more mass shootings in 2015 than calendar days so far this year.
I used to be shocked when one occurred. I’m angry and sad, but I am no longer shocked. At what number on the list did my shock turn into a certain numbness, into something expected to happen again?
When I was 13, my parents moved our family from San Diego to a mountain town in Northern Arizona, where the population at the time was around 30,000. They wanted a small town feel—a safer place to raise their kids. Now, nowhere is safe.
Besides San Bernardino on December 2nd, there was also an incident in Savannah, Georgia that killed one and injured three. Likely that single fatality will be swept under the larger event of the 14 killed and 21 injured in San Bernardino—America is into numbers.
According to an article in The Washington Post, the San Bernardino mass shooting is the 355th this year. No matter how numb I might become, I can never digest that fact.
Since Sandy Hook, the mass shooting that perhaps shocked America the most (as a single gunman killed 26 people, 20 of whom were six and seven year olds in their classrooms), vows were made to crack down on gun control.
And those are just the ones on school grounds.
America is biting its nails… and spitting out the slivers on the graves and broken hearts multiplying from this epidemic.
In the news, President Obama spoke again about how mass shootings are a pattern. I saw this headline: ‘Obama calls for gun reforms in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting.’
Same line, different location.
Maybe I felt compelled to write this because San Bernardino is only 87 miles from the area in Los Angeles County where I live.
Los Angeles has lots of crime, which makes sense due to its major size and population. But it seems that so many mass shootings happen in smaller places.
Newtown. Roseburg. Aurora. Littleton.
Columbine High School—1999.
This was the first school shooting I recall. I was in my Junior year; at the time we couldn’t believe high school students could be capable of such an atrocity and on school grounds.
Currently I work for a family with a 7th grader. Driving over there on the day of the San Bernardino shooting, I thought of when I was in 7th grade—I don’t recall hearing about mass shootings, certainly not at schools. That was just twenty years ago. I wondered if my student would hear about it from his friends or his parents—or if he wouldn’t.
I don’t have children, but I think about what I would tell them if I did.
On my way to work, I talked to my dad. I asked him how things can be so different in the 33 years I’ve been alive. We spoke of the rise in societal pressures and other things that have changed in the last three decades. My father is the kind of man who likes to have a concrete answer, but at the end of our speculations he said, “Those are all part of the problem, sure, but I can’t tell you exactly why.”
On my way home from work I talked to my mom. At the end of our brief chat about San Bernardino, she said with a sigh, “Be safe out there.”
“I will,” I said. Then I added, “There’s not really much we can do. All of us are at risk anytime, in any public place.”
I’ve experienced general anxiety on and off for years. My anxiety, however, has never really been centered around what could happen to me. I don’t worry about natural disasters, not even earthquakes, even though I live in California. I don’t worry about flying in an airplane or traveling alone. I’ve never had anxiety about the possibility of getting shot in public.
But now the undercurrent is there; It runs through the veins of society.
A friend wrote on Facebook the other night, “Every time there is a shooting there is a psychopath who is thinking, ‘This is how I should take out my frustration against the world.’”
There’s that time old cliche: everyone is doing it.
San Bernardino is the third mass shooting since the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood incident only five days prior.
I wish I could say I’m stunned, that this was something out of the ordinary, something surprising. Becoming numb is a form of self defense.
Where is safety? Not in a small town, not in a school or movie theater, a church, or health clinic. Not in a center for people with developmental disabilities.
Obama has said that “Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.”
Senator Chris Murphy said to America, “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing—again.”
Let’s stop tiptoeing around; America’s rose-colored glasses have long since been removed.
Let’s open our eyes wider than ever and take a massive stand for gun reform.
Author: Brittany Michelson
Editor: Sarah Kolkka
Image: Elvert Barnes/Flickr