Perpetual gun violence leads to desensitization

“____ is in our thoughts and prayers.”
Fill in the blank with any location that has been a victim of gun violence, and you might start to notice that we hear this phrase so often that we have become so comfortable with it, to the point where we almost expect it. Our flag is almost perpetually at half-mast, and this phrase has begun to feel like the best we are capable of saying.
When the brain is bombarded with more than it can handle, it shuts down. When it comes to national devastation, we as a community experience something very similar to this, what we are referring to as “desensitization.” It seems that we are living in a country that is willing to excuse these murders as “normal,” but they aren’t normal. Shootings aren’t normal, and how we’re dealing with it shouldn’t be excused. We shouldn’t be hearing about these traumatic events so much so that we’re becoming unaffected by the news of them.
The New York Times studied this concept. “First, when we come across data and numbers, the emotional part of our brain shuts off,” Dr. Slovic said. “We become more detached from the information, which makes us care about it less.” Responding to these threats is draining, and with every new announcement of a threat to our school and violence to someone else’s, our fatigue overtakes our ability to truly process the horror of what has taken place around us. This desensitization causes a certain numbness that spikes the ignorance in our own community.
A disturbing result of this ignorance is the increase of shooting threats and jokes about gun violence. In 2021, Dec. 17 was labeled “National Shoot-Up-Your-School-Day” on social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram. Many parents on this day were unwilling to send their children to school, and a large portion of students who did attend class struggled to focus and feel safe on campus.
Newbury Park High School has been one of the unfortunate victims of ignorant threats and jokes, including pulling fire alarms, threatening to harm people online, and the Dec. 17 incident. Our school, like many other schools in the country, is on constant alert about what is going on around campus. To be sitting at lunch when someone decides to pull a fire alarm to mimic an active shooter that used fire alarms to gain access to potential victims, is terrifying. The announcements of new shootings are so frequent, it seems more strange when it isn’t the center of our newsfeeds, so to some, making these cruel jokes seems normal.
Desensitization does not excuse the horrific “pranks” that have spiked paranoia in our already frightened community. “Insensitive” is not a strong enough description for the people who these events originated from. Devastation has been normalized throughout our country, but perpetuating this normalization by convoluting tragedies for entertainment is sickening.
Further polluting our community with terror is inexcusable, regardless of the individual desensitization these students have undergone.