Americans Are Preparing To Accept They May Die As Victims Of Mass Shootings
In the first 111 days of the year, less than a third of the way through 2021, there have been 156 mass shootings in the United States.
On March 16, eight people – including six women of Asian descent – were killed in a shooting across three spas in Atlanta, Georgia. In the weeks that have followed, the devastating news of the loss of life, after life, has dominated headlines.
The loss of a father who was out grocery shopping in Boulder, Colorado. He had walked his now-pregnant daughter down the aisle last summer.
The loss of a grandmother who had gone to pick up her paycheque from the FedEx where she worked in Indianapolis. She was an immigrant, and part of the city’s Sikh community.
People who had been going about their daily tasks, unaware that they would soon be victim to yet another senseless tragedy.
On social media, users have been expressing concerns about the risk of going out in public spaces.
‘As if my social anxiety around getting coronavirus in grocery stores, restaurants/bars, public places wasn’t high enough, my fear of being a witness or victim in a mass shooting has now joined the conversation,’ one person said. Another wrote: ‘I just have to accept that as an American I may die as a victim of a mass shooting.’
‘The threat of a mass shooting is on my mind every time I’m in a public setting, especially a crowded store or area,’ Emma Toney, from Brooklyn, New York City tells UNILAD.
As large-scale shootings become frequent and action to reform gun laws is slow, Americans have had to adapt, either by knowing how to keep themselves safe or cut their time in public short.
While it may not even cross the mind of a person living in a country where guns cannot be owned by members of the public, Toney says it has become normal for her to be aware of where exits are any time she enters a store, in case she needs to escape.
‘Unfortunately, I feel as Americans, we are becoming more numb to these shootings as they happen so frequently. Nothing is shocking anymore, mass shootings are expected in mass gatherings,’ she says.
She adds: ‘I wouldn’t say I am wary of going out in fear of mass shootings but I’m definitely more alert when I’m in public. I was recently in a shopping mall and was overcome with a ‘bad feeling’ that something bad was going to happen, ultimately resulting in me cutting my trip short and going home. Nothing happened but I did not feel safe being in the uncontrolled public.’
On April 19, authorities arrested Stephen Broderick, a 41-year-old former Sheriff’s Office Deputy who is suspected of fatally shooting three people in Austin, Texas. The victims include Broderick’s wife, his 17-year-old daughter and Willie Simmons, a high school football player who had signed with the University of Texas.
Andre Rezaie, a student at the university, says while the threat of mass shootings has grown ‘very real’, the government is not doing enough to curb gun violence.
‘I am an architecture student so personally, I am already spatially aware of my surroundings in public settings, to begin with, but mass shootings serve as a reminder to not only identify things such as emergency exits but also look out for suspicious individuals or things which may seem out of place,’ he says.
‘I would say America is polarised between two populations with two different thoughts regarding mass shootings; half of this country has a ‘stay at home 24/7 or deal with it’ approach while the other half wants to get something done and get guns that shouldn’t be in the common person’s hands off the streets, among many other reforms.
In the US, public opinion on gun ownership is a divisive issue. While findings published by Gallup in November 2020 said that 57% of Americans want stricter gun laws, Republicans are 60% more likely to own a gun as opposed to 31% of Democrats. Additionally, Gallup’s annual crime poll, published in October 2020 found that just 39% of Republicans support stricter gun laws, while 85% of Democrats want gun reform.
In recent weeks, President Joe Biden has pledged to tackle gun violence in the country, branding it an ‘international embarassment’. Among his first moves, he issued a new order targeting homemade guns, also known as ‘ghost guns’ because they are unregistered and untraceable. These guns are self-assembled, and background checks are not required to purchase the assembly kits.
However, without the support of members of the Republican party, some of which argue that such reforms strip people of their constitutional rights under the Second Amendment, getting measures through Congres will be difficult.
As it stands, the US Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the deciding vote. But, in practice, some Republican support will be required to push through gun measures as at least 60 votes are needed to pass legislation.
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