How to keep mass shootings from feeling normal

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

While many worry about safety with the increase in mass shootings others find they're not even paying much attention to the attacks anymore.  They're simply becoming the new normal.

"Mostly I found out about it today when I was watching the news before work," said Jarred Gaskill of Wichita.

Many Americans didn't even hear about the latest mass shootings until the weekend was over.

"I saw them on the news feeds on my phone," said Caleb Hollaway of Wichita.

Those who did say they found themselves looking no further than the headlines.

"Unfortunately there's a pattern that you can kind of fill in," Hollaway explained.  And then, there's the predictable public reaction, he adds, "No one acts surprised.  No one worries about what happened.  Everybody jumps right to defending one side or the other.  Oh, we need gun control, we don't need gun control, stuff like that.  There's no time for thought about the victims."

"Unfortunately we kind of get to a place where that's our new normal," said Paul Myers of Wichita. "Every time it happens I think it continues to maybe get less shocking.  Because we just had two of them over the weekend and it's just another incident to us."

Dr. Molly Allen says these Wichitans have figured it out.  Too much exposure to death and destruction in the form of mass shootings has numbed many Americans to the tragedy and loss.

"It's almost like it's a sports score.  It's like, 'Yeah, how many this time?  Ok.  Now, what's for lunch?," Allen said.  "After awhile it's like how many times can you be that shocked, that numbed, before it's just kind of like incorporated into what you know about life."

That frequency she says is compounded by a feeling that nothing can be done about the violence.

"It's like a sense of learned helplessness. It's like we can't seem to do anything about this so why bother putting any effort into it?  Any energy into it?" Allen said.  

But, she says, we can and should work to keep the numbness at bay.

"Just remind yourself that these are dozens of people's lives.  If it were somebody that I cared about who got murdered in this way, then what would I appreciate in terms of time and attention?" she said.  "And then, maybe, do that on a small scale, as much as you can."

She likens Americans reactions to mass shootings to an abuse victim's reaction to a beating.

"If you were in an abusive relationship and you'd be like, 'Ok, it was not that bad of a beating today.'  Excuse me, any beating is a bad beating.  So we've lost perspective on this.  We have to bring our perspective back."

Dr. Allen says one way we can regain perspective is to focus on the stories of individual victims, survivors and first responders rather than the overwhelming totality of the shootings.  We can also help by donating blood or money to charities set up to help the victims and their families - just be careful and double check your charities.

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