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A makeshift memorial in tribute to the victims of the Northern Illinois University shooting, one of many school shootings that afflicted the United States./Wikipedia photo by Abog

Mass Shootings: An American Ritual

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By Blaine Stum

I am not numb.

Like many on Thursday, I watched the news unfold of the horrifying shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Ore. with a mixture of horror and despair. I also watched it knowing, “This will happen again.”

I am a part of the Columbine generation. We walked the halls of our schools after that tragic event knowing that the same thing could happen here. I remember teachers and counselors trying to help us process it all. I’m not sure any explanation would have made sense to us. We were to young to grasp the finite nature of life; especially in the context of such senseless violence.

I’ve had the misfortune of witnessing gun violence up close and personal. It’s not something I talk about much if at all, because, frankly… witnessing someone get shot in the head is not the type of thing I enjoy reflecting on. The experience has lingered with me ever since. It never changed my perception of guns: I’ve always known they are meant to be a weapon, but it changed my response to gun violence from one apathy and despair to one of, “What can I do?”

A lot of what we do is ritual. Our daily routine becomes second nature. When it comes to gun violence, our ritual is well known: Express shock and horror. Send thoughts and prayers. Argue about what really caused the most recent tragedy. Rinse and repeat. The debates lead nowhere; except to an acknowledgement that this will happen again. It doesn’t have to though. We know evidence based practices that restrict gun use in ways that matter. We know wholistic mental health treatments that destigmatize mental illness and truly reach for the root cause. We know that the hate and intolerance we allow to continue unabated will only lead to more hate and violence. Yet, even as society acknowledges this, we (collectively) refuse to act.

We can move beyond apathy and despair. We can do something. We need to. For everyone’s sake.

Blaine Stum

About Blaine Stum

Blaine Stum is a 30-something-year-old native of the Spokane area who was raised in Spokane Valley. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor's degree in political science. He works in the local political arena and has been involved in LGBT non-profit work for several years.

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5 comments

  1. One of the best articles I have ever read on FAVS. Cheers and thank you Blaine

  2. Instead of refusing to act this time or spinning off into our little factions in order to hurl verbiage at one another. Maybe the action we should take would be for the vast majority of us to COMPROMISE somewhat with each faction and meet in the middle. Make a decision and then demand loudly and obstinately that our decision must be implemented by OUR government.

    While our children continue to kill each other; while we consistently suffer from all the plagues our enabling has brought upon us; I don’t want to hear anymore divisive distractive crap spew forth from another mouthpiece, all the while telling me how much they care. Or how they want to change things. This crap is all very solvable and anyone who thinks otherwise is is completely lost and part of the problem in my obstinate opinion.

    When did we begin deceiving ourselves. When did we become so convinced that it is more important that our side wins and is RIGHT, than it is to solve the problem and take care of one another. To be human. When did we collectively decide to be so pathetically shallow and weak?

  3. Many good points made in the article. Thanks for sharing

  4. I don’t see anything changing until we are willing to have an open and honest discussion. All things have to be brought to the table. Gun control has to be on the table. Resources for mental health has to be on the table. And even then we’re still left with that cowboy mentality that Americans have never outgrown. I’m not confident that change will happen. Monied interests will lobby against it.

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