Desensitization: The scariest thing about school shootings

A woman stares at her phone, emotionless, after reading about a school shooting. Im sick of hearing the same news over and over again.

Angel Harper

A woman stares at her phone, emotionless, after reading about a school shooting. “I’m sick of hearing the same news over and over again.”

My initial reaction to the hearing about the Nashville school shooting wasn’t horror, rage or tears. All I felt was defeated.

When I hear what feels like a monthly announcement of “teachers and students, please lock your doors we are now entering a shelter in place” I always feel like I should be scared, but I’m not.

“It could be real this time,” I tell myself. I should at least be a little concerned that my life is potentially in danger. Even when I’m actually experiencing it and not just reading headlines about school shootings, I’m always surprised at how emotionless I feel.

Sure, there are different ways of processing grief. Numbness is a common reaction to hearing or experiencing something traumatic.

But that’s not what’s happening here. We are all becoming completely desensitized to school shootings. My reaction to a lockdown announcement should not be “oh, let me pull out my homework and use the time productively,” but it is.

Something that really struck me was this fake “back-to-school commercial” made by the Sandy Hook Promise. It starts off like a normal commercial but then shows elementary-aged students using their new school supplies for self defense as they try to escape a school shooting. The most disturbing part about this commercial is not the fake school shooter: It’s the fact that the threat of school shootings has become so normalized that for many parents, “back-to-school season” represents fear for their child’s life.

After I hear news of a shooting, I immediately know that my day is going to consist of tapping through a wave of Instagram stories full of infographics and frightening statistics about the number of school shootings in America. I’m sick of hearing the same news over and over again. No matter how many petitions we sign or protests we have, nothing changes. The only way we can truly ensure safety in schools is through enforcing gun control laws.

As someone who isn’t old enough to vote on these laws, I often feel like there’s nothing I can do.

I’m constantly reminding myself to focus on my circle of control. At the end of the day, there’s only so many petitions I can sign and videos I can like, but I can always do my best to control the type of information I seek out about these events.

It’s critical to be aware of the type of content you are consuming about school shootings. I didn’t even recognize any issues with the news articles I was seeing at first. For example, why would including the word “manifesto” or directly naming the shooter in the headline be problematic? This Poynter article goes in detail about why this type of reporting is “irresponsible,” but to summarize, there’s no need to glorify the shooter or focus the attention on them rather than the event.

More often than not, articles published about the event are full of inflammatory writing. It’s extremely dangerous to take people’s anger and devastation about a school shooting and funnel it into something irrelevant that will only lead to more hate, which is the opposite of what we need after a shooting.

These articles give the shooter exactly what they want. We’ve heard the same story over and over again: “Teenage outcast who feels invisible decides to shoot up a school to gain the attention they’re seeking.” Including the shooter’s name and picture in an article is essentially telling the shooter “Yes, even though you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison, you’ll get your 15 minutes of fame.”

Fifteen minutes of fame for irreplaceable lives. This year alone, there have already been 6,000 people killed or injured in school shootings. 6,000.

Not feeling anything about school shootings isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a wakeup call that we’ve been desensitized, and that’s the scariest thing about school shootings.

Students at Bellaire can continue to take action against school shootings through participating in clubs to fight gun violence and programs like Stop The Prop.