Colorado Springs, Colorado – Chesapeake. Colorado Springs. Uvalde. Buffalo. Portland. Highland Park.
Incidents of mass shootings in big cities and small towns across the country have increased in the wake of the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. And amid the grief and shock and loss, each one prompts more businesses, schools, hotels or nightclubs to toughen their security response.
And, experts say, that’s potentially a concern for millions of Americans. While deaths in a mass shooting are incredibly rare, public reminders of them are ubiquitous. News about him keeps coming. And predicting the next one seems impossible.
A Walmart manager opened fire Tuesday night at the Chesapeake, Virginia store where he worked, killing six people and injuring at least five others, officials said.
A few days earlier, a shooter killed five people at an LQBQT bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before being tackled by a former US Army major and other patrons.
Between those two attacks, six other people were killed and 14 others were injured in shootings in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and Illinois, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which lists shootings involving four or more people except the shooter. .
For victims and survivors, each attack is intensely personal. And for the rest of us, each new attack erodes a sense of security and community. For some, the daily reminders become impossible to ignore.
“It’s terrible that we all have to live with this fear constantly in the back of our minds,” said Helia Turner, 24, a longtime Club Q patron.
Turner was not at the club that night. She said this is partly because she has become cautious about visiting places where other shootings have taken place, from movie theaters to college classrooms.
“Because of the senseless nature of gun violence in America that is only worsening catastrophically, I have lived a life sheltering more out of sheer fear,” she said.
Growing Numbers, Lasting Effect
New records have been set for the total number of mass shootings in the US in recent years, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Last year, with a total of 690 events, was the highest number since the project started shooting in 2014. This year till Wednesday the number was 608.
A separate joint effort by the Associated Press and USA Today that tracks mass killings, in which four or more people are killed, showed a similar trajectory.
Mass Killing Database: Revealing the trends, details and agony of every US event since 2006
At the same time, more guns are being sold than ever before: Annual gun sales peaked during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 21.5 million sold in 2020. From hunting to self defense in gun marketing.
In addition to firearms, manufacturers are heavily marketing such things as concealed-weapon holsters in yoga pants and secret gun safes built into SUV headrests, so buyers can be prepared to confront an active shooter, regardless. Be it any situation.
In Uvalde, authorities are planning to demolish the primary school where 22 students and teachers died on May 24 to build a state-of-the-art complex with enhanced security measures. Reports indicate that poor security at the school contributed to the death toll – security that has been tightened at schools since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
In Boulder, many grocery stores are now guarded by armed police officers or private security guards, a legacy of March 22, 2021, in which a gunman killed 10 people at a King Soopers supermarket.
In San Francisco, the Club Q shooting prompted bar owner Chris Hastings to schedule new “active shooter” training sessions in response for his staff at the Lookout Bar, a popular spot in the Castro district of San Francisco. One of the most famous LGBTQ neighborhoods in the country. ,
Hastings said his staff took training after the 2016 Pulse nightclub mass shooting that killed 46 people in Orlando, and this includes dimming the club’s lights and music to reduce confusion if an attack were to occur. Is. He said the staff also had the exits memorized so they could help patrons escape.
Hastings said, “I’m angry that things like this keep happening, I’m concerned for the staff and the patrons who come.” “I’m disappointed that we need to take precautions to do more training so that people can have a good time.”
explain the trauma response
experts told USA TODAY that while it is likely to fall prey to While a mass shooting is incredibly small, the fact that they occur in such unexpected places triggers an ongoing trauma response for many people.
Even when it’s not your grocery store, your school, your movie theater, the reminders feel inescapable.
“It’s only human to ask yourself questions like, ‘Is it safe for me to go to the grocery store? Is it safe for me to drop my kids off at school? Is it safe for me to go out to dinner? Am I safe in public? being treated appropriately?'” said Stephanie Robillio, clinical director of Agap Behavioral Health Care in Fort Lauderdale.
She said: “You can see if you or someone else is having these kinds of thoughts, imagine what that does to our collective mental health?”
Steven Edelman, an attorney and vice president of the Connecticut-based Event Safety Alliance, said mass shootings create tension in our brains because we know they’re rare but at the same time we fear the unknown. Edelman has served as an expert witness in personal injury lawsuits following mass shootings, including the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.
In that attack, a man who dragged an arsenal of guns and bullets to the 32nd floor The Mandalay Bay Casino Hotel opened fire on the people below, killing 60 and injuring over 400.
After that attack, many Las Vegas hotels began regularly inspecting each occupied room, including rooms with “do not disturb” signs.
Edelman said the pandemic is a good example of how most people respond to a traumatic experience: While a relatively small number of people are still avoiding large gatherings or poorly ventilated indoor spaces, the fact that Club Q Was open and busy shows most people resume their normal. Dealing relatively quickly.
“It’s important not to panic,” Edelman, 59, said. We are creatures of habit. When there is an interruption in the normal way of doing things, it causes people to change their reactions for some time, but then after the passage of time, many people will resume the activities in which they were Used to enjoy before.”
In Uvalde, Nancy Sutton and her husband installed security cameras and began consistently carrying concealed firearms, a legacy of the shooting at one of the many schools where they regularly serve as class photographers. She said tensions at the nearby US-Mexico border had already put her on edge, but the attack on Rob Elementary has shaken her faith in the safety of her small town, where every child and teacher she knew was there.
“The shooting has made us more alert and aware of our surroundings,” Sutton, 59, said. Nevertheless, this did not stop him from attending school-related events or other large gatherings.
James Miller, a licensed psychotherapist and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, said many people in the confines of the shooting have experienced what is known as “secondary trauma.”
“This happens when there is an event where we see or hear something that can cause us trauma, PTSD or a level of compassion fatigue,” Miller said. “We can experience the same kinds of symptoms that were there, as we can fill in the blanks for the terror or pain the victims felt.
“Maybe not to the same extent, but similar symptoms,” Miller said.
live with fear
While experts said time can help mitigate immediate effects, it isn’t always an option for emergency responders or even grocery store workers who find themselves at risk. In addition to the 2021 Boulder King Soupers shooting, grocery workers were targeted in the May 2022 shooting at a Buffalo Topps store and Tuesday night’s Walmart attack in Chesapeake.
After the 2021 Boulder attack, union workers who collectively bargained to receive company-provided mass-shooter safety training, and are learning new de-escalation techniques to deal with angry customers, United Food’s said Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 of Colorado. Commercial Workers International Federation.
Cordova, 55, said a customer wearing camouflage shorts, a face mask and tactical-style gloves recently came into a Colorado store with an AR-15-style rifle, frightening customers and workers. Cordova said that although the man was not confronted for violating store policy and left without incident, it upset employees.
“You’re just waiting for the next bad thing to happen,” he said. “It’s scary that we have to live in fear.”
For former Orlando police officer Omar Delgado, it brought back memories of being one of the first officers to arrive at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016 upon hearing about the Colorado Springs shooting. ,
Six years later, Delgado said he is doing much better because his recovery is “still a long process.” He said it is hoped that those who have lost loved ones in the recent mass shooting find comfort and support in each other.
“When you read, hear and see about things like Colorado Springs, it sets you back a little bit, like wanting to crawl back into a hole,” Delgado said. “But holding back can hurt you even more.”
And he worries about escalation – where a shooter is motivated by media coverage of others: “Somebody might be saying to themselves … can I take out more people?”
Back in Colorado Springs, nightclub patron Turner states that the shock of the Club Q shooting is over. And when the club reopens, she hopes to return to help reclaim a safe space for the LBGQT community in a conservative city.
“It’s as if you’ve lost your emotional home. I knew I could always find a sense of community and unmistakable support at Club Q, and now it’s gone,” she said. “I know I have a responsibility to be the embodiment of resilience and to continue to gather with love in safe, open, spaces. Hiding in fear will only allow hatred and hateful rhetoric to win, and I will continue to live life in any capacity. Deny but an example of unfailing love. I tell myself that it is now more than ever that I need to love with urgency.