How legitimate are our fears of mass shootings? When I think of the mass shootings that have occurred over the past year, what comes to mind are those that took place in Charleston, South Carolina and San Bernardino, California. These two incidents represent our fears of shootings on a large scale: they can happen anywhere and at any time. One was in South Carolina, the other in Southern California. One was during a Bible Study at a church, another at a party in a convention center. A common denominator between the two is that the victims were those who did not in any form or fashion expect to be killed when they got out of bed that morning. So, how justified are our fears?
According to shootingtracker.com, there were 372 mass shootings in the United States last year. Mass shootings are defined as incidents where four or more people are injured or wounded as a result of gunfire. Without getting into the politics of gun rights and self-defense, that number is mind boggling to think about. Granted, the U.S. does not have the best record when it comes to gun violence, but it is still important to note that there were more mass shootings last year than there are days in a year.
So what does this mean for us? Are our fears justified? The answer to this question cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Yes, we should be scared because the data shows that there is on average more than a shooting per day, but we also have to look at the underlying factors. For one, many mass shootings occur in underprivileged areas where gun violence is a daily fear for many. These are the incidents that make up the bulk of the data when it comes to mass shootings. If you ask anyone to name a shooting that happened last year other than San Bernardino or Charleston, chances are they would not be able to name one.
The fact is that shootings in “privileged” places are statistical anomalies compared to those that happen on a regular basis in underprivileged areas—statistically, we should not be very worried about the probability of getting shot. However, this does not mean that we should live life completely carefree—we should always be aware of the dangers surrounding us and be prepared for the worst-case scenarios, regardless of how unlikely they may be.
The biggest reason why the fear of mass shootings permeates our society is because the media often will use fearmongering in order to gain viewership. Shootings are good material for what audiences want to watch and creating paranoia among the audience is an effective way to sustain ratings in an age where the news is not as important as other programs. So what may seem like an apparent danger to us in privileged America may not be much of a potential problem at all.
We should not live our lives in fear, especially not in fear of something that will probably not happen to the majority of us. Yes, there is always the possibility of danger, but to consider it an apparent danger to everyone in our country is a stretch. We should, however, try to always be prepared for those situations and live life aware of the surprises that may come.