By Kerry-Anne Loughman | Opinion Columnist

Mass shootings are on the rise in America and make our country numb to the issue of gun violence. (Courtesy of Jonathan M. Metzl)

Being a citizen of the United States of America is a unique experience. It is one that is unknown to many and envied by many. Our country is famous for upholding the pillars of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for its citizens, and everyone knows that to be American is to be free. But, there is another aspect of being American that is much darker, and it is so unique to the United States that the rest of the world simply watches us, mouths agape, unable to understand exactly why we continue on the way we do. It has to do with our problems with gun violence.

To be American is to wake up in the morning, check the news, and see that 10, 15, 20, 50 people died at the hands of someone who shouldn’t have been able to access any firearms; to be American is to know that there will always be another mass shooting. We don’t know when, and we don’t know where. But we do know with certainty that it will happen again. Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of being American is this: We see these headlines, we read about the victims, and we wonder about the lives they could have continued to live had they not been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then, once we have finished wondering, we simply move on—without doing anything to prevent the next one. It’s almost as though we feel nothing at all.

The routine of the average American after a mass shooting is simple and does not change. We read the news. We sit at our computers, phones, and tablets, scrolling through the countless Facebook statuses and tweets that read versions of either “my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims,” or “thoughts and prayers do nothing, we need to fight for sensible gun control.” We get angry at Congress for doing nothing to stop these shootings from happening. Our hearts hurt for the communities that have been ripped apart and the lives that have been lost. Finally, helplessly, we, as a country, move on without doing a single thing to prevent the next shooting from happening. We do nothing, and we continue to do nothing. It’s as simple and heartbreaking as that. Moreover, as each mass shooting makes headlines and we go through our routine, we grow more and more numb to the fact that this doesn’t need to happen. We absolutely do not have to live like this. And yet, here we are.

American society has become numb to the occurrence of mass shootings because we have normalized them. We have accepted their occurrence as an unfortunate but unchangeable fact of life, so they will continue to occur. The only thing that could change this is the drafting of sensible gun-control legislation by Congress. However, many politicians choose to ignore the problem and offer empty words of comfort instead. By tweeting “thoughts and prayers” when the news of another mass shooting hits, they absolve themselves of guilt while doing the absolute bare minimum of actions—a selfish and useless move that helps absolutely nobody. If the hundreds of lives that have been affected, changed, and ended at the hands of mass shooters couldn’t persuade Congress to protect its citizens, it’s difficult to imagine what will. With a government that refuses to put an end to this evil and this heartbreak, it is difficult to have hope.

Mass shootings in the United States are horrific, despicable, and evil tragedies. They are also frequent and virtually impossible to stop. Because of this, it’s easy to understand why the American public has become so numb to their occurrence. Mass shootings will be a part of American life until we collectively decide, both government and governed, that we have had enough and nothing less will do. In the meantime, we need to hold on to our feelings as we feel them and not allow numbness to take over. We cannot continue to let our anger, grief, and helplessness fade away with time. One day, they will become the basis for positive change.

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