“Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.”
The quote comes from President Obama’s statement on the evening of October 1st, the day of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. We, the citizens of the United States, have become so numb to this. Another shooting in Northern Arizona University, reported through CNN, only 8 days after the President’s speech did not come as a huge surprise. Over the past six years, Obama has made more than 10 follow-up speeches after mass shootings, too many of them at educational institutions, and citizens have read too many news articles about the gunmen’s motives for attacks.
The investigators’ search for irrationality has become “routine.” The media dives into the shooter’s background and finds close friends and classmates, who often tell reporters either that the person was the most normal and happiest person ever or that the person was always a loner. Then the attorneys search through health records, looking for the history of psychological treatments. The constant media reports of similar narratives with unvarying investigation method have numbed us, the public. We have become so used to the narrative that we now try to make sense of the unfortunate events.
We can no longer decide where the real issue arises from, because the narrative of a lonely person with a history of depression or other mental illnesses using guns to take away the lives of the innocents has become so typical. In fact, the articles present no real details about the mental illness that actually evaluates and proves the connection between the illness and the shooting. Even if no health record has been found, the attorneys often “suggest” that mental illness may have led to the shooting. While no condition can justify any crime, “mental illness” has in a way become a norm that characterizes the gunmen and also a tool to justify shootings. We have become so numb that we consciously associate the suggested disease with the innocents’ deaths.
The very notion that all gunmen suffer from psychological diseases is not true but only comes from the media portrayal of the shooters. A statement that the shooters deal with mental issues cannot be definitive until anything is transparently proven. Sometimes the “mental illness” portion of the biography gets away with the shooters’ friends and family members’ claim that he was “dealing with some problems.” The investigation teams must become more precise and honest regarding this issue. Otherwise, the social stigma of mental illness might haunt the American population at last, making general public inanely assume that mentally ill people are dangerous.
On the other hand, even if all gunmen actually suffer from such diseases, the fact that the nation is still letting “mentally ill” people obtain and handle guns is a problem. Despite the increasing number of gun violence and such frequency presumably coming from psychological challenges of the shooters, no legislative policy effectively remedies the problem. According to an FBI study from last year, a factor in in shootings with the highest number of fatalities was frequently a mental illness. So, it seems likely that, not all, but a large percentage of shooters deal with mental issues. Michael Bloomberg criticized the government for not pushing through to pass tougher laws to prevent gun violence and said “the fact that criminals, terrorists, and other mentally ill people have access to guns is a national crisis” in 2012 after his visit to a Sikh community center in Wisconsin. While we must associate a lack of gun control legislation with gun violence, the public is disillusioned by this established routine in the midst of the irrational series of tragedies. The high frequency of the President’s speeches and shootings probably inured the other politicians as well, as they remain immobile in passing any laws to change the current tragic trend.
The President often offered “thoughts and prayers” to those who lost their beloveds and to the nation that suffered tragedies through his speeches. Recently, he agreed that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough and not effective in preventing the gun violence. Change will come from realizing that governmental policy, more than mental illness, impacts shootings. Change will also come from knowing that “we have become numb.”
Lizzie Yang, CSN Staff
Dudley, James. “Allowing the Mentally Ill Guns Is Insane”. Politico Magazine (October 5, 2015).
Office of the Press Secretary. “Statement by the President on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon”. The White House James S. Brady Press Briefing Room (Oct. 1, 2015).
O’Neil, Ann. “Theater Shooter Holmes Gets 12 Life Sentences, Plus 3,318 Years”. CNN (Aug. 27, 2015).
Pearson, Michael, Amanda Watts and Steve Almasy. “Northern Arizona University deadly shooting followed fight, police say”. CNN (Oct. 19, 2015).
Image found here.