How shootings have redefined our media

Every shooting that claims four or more victims is now coined a mass shooting rather than a shooting.

A little over two weeks after yet another mass shooting has occurred, and there is still no motive over why the mass shooter Audrey Hale claimed six lives at an elementary school on April 14.

A gunman, Connor Sturgeon, walks into a bank and opens fire, claiming four lives in the process on April 10. Joshua Barrick, 40; Juliana Farmer, 45; Tommy Elliott, 63; and James Tutt, 64, were the four victims in this shooting committed by Sturgeon.

Across the United States, these incidents are not alone. Mass shootings happen almost every single week, and we as Americans have gotten used to hearing about said shootings. When shootings occurred decades ago, they were isolated events and were horrific to hear about; yet now, in 2023, we hear about shootings once or twice a week, with each one becoming normalized to a point where shootings are normalized.

Media details shootings in a multitude of ways, yet a commonality between sites and sources is the term “mass shooting.” Regardless of where you hear the term “mass shooting,” these words are nearly inseparable and are often seen together. Ever since Columbine, the deadly school shooting in 1999, there have been over 377 school shootings alone, and over 2,000 lives claimed in mass shootings since 1999 in total.

The newest shooting at the bank in Louisville is the latest in a string of shootings that have plagued the nation. Whether these shootings occur in a mall, an elementary school or a bank, they all have one thing in common — they are all considered mass shootings.

This definition of what constitutes a mass shooting has dominated the forefront of news efforts, with mass shooting being a commonplace term among other titles such as “How-To…” or “Identify and Solve…” articles. Shootings have become so common in the U.S. that we have a term to differentiate the number of those killed in them. This term has redefined how lives are claimed in shootings, and it is defined by Google as, “A mass shooting is a crime in which an attacker kills or injures multiple individuals simultaneously using a firearm.”

The redefinition and clarification of an act to claim lives, one which specifies how many lives have to be claimed at a minimum, is an utterly devastating difference that disgustingly sums up how atrocious these acts have become, as well as how often these acts occur.

The sheer number of these life-ending events has shifted how reporters discuss these acts. This, in and of itself, should be disturbing enough to wish to enact change. The bare minimum of laws or rules that should be enacted includes those such as red flag laws.

By definition, red flag laws are “a tool law enforcement and others can use when somebody is clearly at high risk of doing something with a firearm, but they can’t be arrested because no crime has been committed and they don’t appear to need a mental health hold or qualify for one,” as quoted by Amy Barnhorst, a psychiatrist at UC Davis Health, as well as an expert on the prevention of violence.

When shootings are presented on the news, verbiage has shifted to include “mass” in a significant portion of those news reports. A stark increase in the number of mass shootings has resulted in a shift in how these shootings are defined. When our shootings are defined by numbers, and lives are simple statistics, when are these laws going to be enacted to stop the near-never-ending cycle of gun violence?

Post Author: Alex Soeder