Mass shootings numb, erode quality of life in America

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US flags. Photo: Reuters.

NEW YORK – Blame it on the relentless blitz of news and social media that overload, numb senses, akin to those caught in the grip of opioid addiction. Graphic photos, videos spew, churn mercilessly; give withering insight to 24×7 cycles of horrors. Or the new normal that is life in America: to deal with almost calm nonchalance flurry of deadly human catastrophe on a routine basis. The country is seemingly caught in a helpless vortex of natural and unnatural disasters and ensuing deaths, from a vicious cycle of storms, wildfires, mass shootings, terrorist attacks through motor vehicles.

There was a decade in America when it seemed the threat of another 9/11 terrorist attack was kept in abeyance for perpetuity, as security tightened at airports, strict law enforcement and tight surveillance kept citizens safe.

No more.

Like termites that eat away foundations of houses, an era of mass shootings has been unleashed to destabilize, erode the quality of life of Americans and residents, sow perpetual wariness and fear on a daily basis as to from where and when will the next calamity surface; which deranged person will unleash his unrequited anger at innocent men, women and children. Shoot them in the head from point blank range.

The question is no more if this terror will be quelled or not. This much has sunk in: it won’t be quelled. Mother Nature’s fury, too, has squarely targeted the shores of the US, to ravage and debilitate at will, create mayhem.

The Charlotte Observer Editorial Board noted that three of the top five mass shootings in modern America have occurred over the past 18 months.

“Such shootings have become so common that the Columbine massacre, which shocked the nation in 1999 and led to massive changes in schools, is no longer ranked in the top 10. We were momentarily moved by a Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 people and injured several hundred and spoke, briefly, about limiting access, not to high-powered guns, but kits that could modify them into automatic weapons. We couldn’t even get that done, just as we couldn’t when scores of elementary kids were killed in Sandy Hook and polls showed that 90 percent of the public was in favor of tighter background checks,” it said.

Vox made the point that “it has only been five days since a gunman walked into a place of worship in Texas and opened fire, killing 26 people. But America is already moving on. If you look at the online pages of major national newspapers, the mass shooting at the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church is no longer anywhere close to the top news. On Google Trends, it’s no longer among the top 50 topics that people are searching for.”

Other countries, however, have been outraged and done something to stamp out evil.

When a man walked into a cafe in Port Arthur, Australia, and shot and killed 35 people in 1996, the tragedy engulfed that country — leading it to pass a comprehensive set of gun restrictions that led to the confiscation of 650,000 firearms. After a gunman killed 16 children and their teacher in Scotland in 1996, the UK banned most types of handguns. Mass shootings have led other countries, including Canada, Germany, and New Zealand, to take similar action, reported Vox.

America has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data compiled by the Guardian.

At the same time, the US has by far the highest number of guns in the world. According to a 2007 estimate, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 88.8 guns per 100 people, meaning there was almost one privately owned gun per American and more than one per American adult, translating to more than 300 million guns. The world’s second-ranked country was Yemen, where there were 54.8 guns per 100 people, noted Vox.

Politifact reported that according to researchers at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which defined “mass shooting” as “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms, within one event, and in one or more locations in close proximity”, there have been counted 317 mass shootings from 1999-2013.

And no point in blaming people with ‘mental’ issues, as some reports have dwelt upon.

A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that databases that track gun homicides show that less than 5 percent of 120,000 gun-related killings in America between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people with a diagnosed mental illness.

Music festivals, churches, roads, night clubs, school classrooms, university campuses, movie theaters are all dangerous, deadly places in today’s America.

So, where does one hide when the next attack happens? Where does one go? Will you get killed by your neighbor, or by a stranger?

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)