The monster under our bed: Addressing mass shootings in post-pandemic America


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Grant Wheeler

Tuesday morning our country woke up to a tragic piece of news that was heartbreaking, spirit breaking, and sadly inevitable. A mass shooting in Atlanta has left eight dead, four of which are believed to be of Asian descent.

There are no words to encapsulate the tragedy of this event, especially after the NBA and others have made recent pledges to combat Asian racism. Unfortunately, this will not be the last shooting—if anything it is a spark that will reignite a raging fire that has been getting harder and harder to control over the last couple of decades in this country.  

One good thing to come out of the shutdown has been the lack of mass shootings as a result of folks not congregating in large groups. However, as we push forward and things begin to get back on track to normal, all the problems we had in our normal, pre-pandemic lives are going to come back into the fray. It is a pity that the words “normal” and “mass shooting” could even be muttered together in the same sentence, but that is the reality we face as a nation that has put an astronomical issue on the backburner. 

How do we champion the rights and highlight the voices of minorities without putting a massive target on these group’s backs for psychopaths? That is a genuine question we must begin to ask ourselves if we truly care or intend to preserve the safety of these groups.

Often times the perpetrators of these atrocities go into them with a clear target in mind, and more often than not it is minority groups. Gays in the Orlando shooting. Blacks in Charleston, Latinos in El Paso, and now Asians in Atlanta. There are exceptions of course, but there is definitely a pattern. It is obvious that minority groups are in exceptional danger due to this growing crisis in America. 

I believe it’s safe to say that this year marks the most socially disconnected we have ever been in my lifetime. Some studies find that mass shootings typically drop off during major crises. The U.S averaged five mass shootings per year from 1999-2001, and just one in 2002 after 9/11, according to data from the Violence Project, a nonprofit that studies the effects of mass shootings on society. Adjusted to population inflation and average shootings per year now, I’m sure you would see a similar dip if studying shootings pre-pandemic. 

The pandemic has urged folks to slow down and live life at a quarter speed for the greater good of a country. Many people have adopted new hobbies and used the time wisely to reach for new personal creative heights. While many citizens have stayed at home focusing on the good things in their life, it would seem nearly impossible to ignore the growing concerns and issues we’ve faced in the last year, including the riots in Minneapolis, a coup on our nation’s Capitol and rising tensions in Syria. These are things even the strongest-willed of people are going to have to cope with.

The pandemic has given time to the festering mind of the American psychopath. In the before mentioned article, the Violence Project founder Dr. Peterson said, “We know that mass shootings are socially contagious, we know that they cluster, we know that perpetrators copy each other.” 

I’m afraid that this tragedy in Atlanta will only give credence to future perpetrators, thus beginning the domino effect once more. 

With vaccines rolling out and states beginning to gradually open up, it looks like we may hopefully be on the other side of the pandemic. Our experience has shown how strong the bonds can be when we as Americans work together to fight a common enemy.

As we move forward in these dark days, we must push the tribal differences aside and redirect our attention to the monster under America’s bed. We must work together and reestablish bipartisan relationships so that we can finally get something done in Washington. We must protect these groups that are under attack. People must not get so offended when gun law conversations pop up.

And finally, we need to seriously address mental health with its due diligence. We must become more empathetic, selfless and mindful. This may sound harsh, but we’ve had the conversation about your anxiety. It’s time to have the conversation about their psychosis.