The increased amount of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States over the past decades could have been caused by a change in violent gun culture and the normalization of guns, according to Pamela Monaghan-Geernaert, an SU sociology professor.
She said the rise in mass shootings is because of the normalization of guns in today’s media. She said there used to be more restrictions on what was shown on TV because of the production code, but now we see gun violence everywhere.
“Because of this production code, we didn’t see violence, we didn’t see sex, we didn’t see a lot of it and now we see it everywhere,” Monaghan-Geernaert said.
Gun violence is also normalized in our society as a whole. Gun culture has always existed, but now there is a violent side to gun culture. Because of the large number of mass shootings, people have gotten used to it, and people know what others are capable of and know they are able to pull off a similar act, she said.
Monaghan-Geernaert also attributed this increase in gun violence to America’s individualistic society. Mental illness is either normalized or stigmatized. People are more likely to be open about their depression or anxiety whereas schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is more likely to be stigmatized by others. Getting help for mental illnesses is very difficult and not free.
“The mental health illnesses that we stigmatize, we stigmatize in a way that getting help or admitting issues is very very difficult to do in our society,” Monaghan-Geernaert said.
People also can feel ostracized or isolated anywhere whether it is online or in person. Often, people want to find like-minded people who they can talk to and relate with. However, some use social media to find like-minded people and can find themselves in dangerous situations when there is no one there to diffuse the conversation, according to Monaghan-Geernaert.
She said people naturally need socialization, and encourages her students to step out of their comfort zones by having conversations with the people who sit next to them before her classes.
“We’re, by nature, social. So even if you are an introvert, you still want to feel connected to something,” Monaghan-Geernaert said.
In response to the recent events, Monaghan-Geernaert said she has noticed a difference in the response from students at Stoneman Douglas High School. The students are the ones rallying, and that is important because they are the ones who were directly affected by the event. People their age are usually talked about as being lazy and self-centered. However, she said these students are well-organized.
In terms of ending gun violence, Monaghan-Geernaert said we should try not to normalize assault rifles and should stop selling them overall. This is where Hollywood needs to step up and put more restrictions on media. There also must be an ongoing conversation about gun violence and mass shootings.
People should look at themselves as individuals, but then come together and look at society as a whole. As a society, Americans should ask themselves the questions of how to keep the conversation going and how to not normalize this behavior. These topics must be taken seriously, but they should not be normalized.
Campus resources, such as the Ship CARES referral system, are available, and Monaghan-Geernaert encouraged students to speak out if someone they know needs help. Students should know it is OK to ask for help. The Ship CARES referral system allows students to refer other students to the Ship CARES team. Students can submit a referral due to academic, physical or emotion changes they might be noticing, according to the Ship CARES website.
“Our ability to show compassion for each other is part of this way to stop gun violence and get people more connected,” Monaghan-Geernaert said.