The impact of mass shootings in American culture

Families, friends and all United States citizens deal with mass shooting culture in America. 

Madison Mason

Content Warning: Information regarding mass shootings and gun violence are mentioned in this article. 

After a mass shooting, the citizens of the United States mourn the lives lost in the shootings and proceed to have divisive conversations about what should be done to prevent mass shootings. 

In 2021, there has been a recorded number of 147 mass shootings, according to CNN. However, the concept of mass shootings isn’t new to American culture. 

Since Columbine, mass shootings have become increasingly common in America. In 2017, it was said the U.S. makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population but has 31 percent of the world’s mass shooters, according to Business Insider.


Mass shootings, whether in schools, businesses, concerts, etc., have been normalized in the United States, however, many people still have compelling reactions to these issues. 

An anonymous student, majoring in English education, explained that as a future educator, she fears for not only herself but for her students as well. 

“If I’m being honest, I worry all the time,” the anonymous student said. “I spend 8 to 10 hours of every weekday with students during my student teaching, and when these things happen, there are two types of conversations that come up: I have some students who are completely unphased. This is normal to them, and it scares me some days. They’re high schoolers, and many have accepted that it may one day be them, but are unshaken. Then I have the other half, and we have discussions about how to be safe and ways to find comfort in scary times. They’re paranoid and afraid. My heart is broken on either end of the scale.” 

Austin Dart, a sophomore in computer science, explained that murder in general is a heinous act, however, mass shootings are on a different level. 

“Homicide is a terrible evil, but there is generally at least a motive behind homicide, albeit a bad motive (no one should have the right to murder another),” Dart said. “Mass shootings, however, are on another level of evil. There is no motive, and the shooter attempted to kill as many people as possible.”

Sam Thompson, a junior in environmental science, said they are frustrated with the common occurrence of mass shootings in the U.S.

“Sadness at the loss of lives, frustration with the frequency of occurrence and anger at elected officials (primarily Republicans) who actively oppose any form of gun restriction laws and are backed by lobbyists like NRA, who seek to profit off of the ignorance of the American people,” Thompson said. 

Samantha Dahm, a freshman in psychology, explained that they have issues as well with the lack of prevention of gun violence and mass shootings. 

“I think that it’s horrific and so sad. It’s so easily preventable but nothing gets done so these things continue to happen and people continue to die,” Dahm said. 

Ian Hutchison, a sophomore in pre-industrial design, provided a different perspective, as he explained he fears more for the use of mass shootings to promote a narrative. 

“Every time one of these great acts of evil takes place it is of great concern to me, though maybe not for reasons many assume,” Hutchison said. “They are almost always bound to become major news headlines, which drives the anti-firearm narrative. To me, each shooting is a tragedy; a tragedy that is manipulated and used in disgusting fashion as a tool to target political opposition, silence dissent through use of emotional appeal and step closer and closer to the end of the free state. My reaction is one of dread for the future and frustration in the ignorance of those who would use such a tragic situation for their own gain.” 


Recently though, something that has impacted mass shootings has been the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to The Washington Post, mass shootings had largely been absent from headlines during the coronavirus pandemic, however, people were still dying from them at a record rate. In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than any other year in at least two decades. The majority of these tragedies happened and were buried by the ongoing news of COVID-19, and instead, these events unfolded in homes or on city streets. 

What really brought mass shootings back in the headlines was the case of the Atlanta Spa Shooting, which took the lives of eight Asian American women. 

Anna Erickson, a senior in community and regional planning, said she felt frustration that after stay-at-home orders were lifted, various mass shootings took place. 

“I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the mere moment that some stores and public areas began to open in this pandemic world we are currently living, mass shootings started again,” Erickson said. “The fact that no one is safe just simply going to the grocery store or to school is not raising as much concern as I think it should.”


While people have similar reactions of grief and fear to mass shootings, many people look to how we can solve this issue of mass shootings and gun violence. According to Business Insider, though mass shootings comprise a small amount of the country’s overall gun violence, they have become a target for politicians and grassroots organizers who seek to prevent the multiple deaths of people often targeted at random.  

Organizations like March For Our Lives, which was formed following the Parkland Shooting, have been fighting for the end of gun violence. Some solutions that have been provided have been assault weapon bans, high capacity magazine bans, funding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research into gun violence, universal background checks, red flag laws, arming teachers and other citizens, active shooter drills, security precautions at establishments or even banning violent video games. 

However, many people have different opinions on what it takes to end mass shootings and gun violence. 

Chris Boyd, a senior in computer science, said citizens should do their due diligence and protect themselves in the instance of mass shootings. 

“All citizens have the right to protect themselves. Any form of gun control (except removing firearms from criminals) violates this basic principle,” Boyd said. “When a criminal comes at you with a gun, any smart person would follow the saying ‘don’t take a knife to a gun fight.’ It is foolish to think any other form of protection would sufficiently defend yourself against a criminal use of firearms.”

Boyd said citizens in the U.S. should know how to safely protect themselves with deadly force during a mass shooting. He added that people should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on university campuses so they are able to protect themselves. Boyd also pushed for mental health help in order to end mass shootings, as many mass shooters are mentally ill. 

Decker Mann, a senior in agricultural business, holds similar views. He said gun control is not the answer to prevent mass shootings because it infringes on an individual’s Second Amendment rights. 

“Gun control is right where it should be, being a legal U.S. citizen and going through background checks,” Mann said. “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed for the obvious reason of government tyranny. Look what’s happened in the past when countries like Germany, the Soviet Union and Cuba took away guns from their citizens. Recall the names of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro and what terrible things they did and where they ended up. If America tries doing this, bad things will happen.

“They’re already extremely similar by using media propaganda and manipulating people, it’s just what they want. The government wants to control us and the Second Amendment is the only thing keeping them from doing it. If they try to take away guns there will no doubt be serious repercussions. It will ultimately start another civil war. Half of America are not sheeps and will stand up for their rights and will fight back if they have to. Taking guns away and making them illegal won’t change a thing. People will still get them. It’s just like marijuana, it’s illegal still in many states and people still get it.”

Mann also provided two ways that could be possible solutions for mass shootings. 

“The solution to the mass shootings has two very important parts. The first is teaching gun safety at a very young age. Kids need to understand what they are and what they’re intended for. Kids need better upbringing in school and at home,” Mann said. “Social media has ruined our lives. Kids should go outside more and do sports, recreational activities and learn new things. Things like these will promote kids to be more appreciative of the world and have better work ethic and morals.

“All around it will make them better people and once that’s achieved there’s no worries about guns. Another important thing is mental health problems. Mental health has become much more of an issue in the past 10 years. I wonder what is causing it… social media. Social media is terrible, it spreads lies, false reality, hate, divide and many other terrible things. If we can raise kids right at home and in school, kids will have tougher skin and won’t be phased by some of these things. Since the mental health damage is already done we need better ways of helping kids go through things and that violence is never the answer to your problems.”

Brendan Huffman, a senior in industrial technology, said that in theory, gun control could be effective, however, the reality of it is simply criminalizing weapons. 

“Gun control is a good idea in theory but doesn’t actually stop a criminal from obtaining a gun. If a criminal wants to harm others they can do it with many other things such as a car, knife, bombs, etc.,” Huffman said. “Gun control would instantly make thousands of law-abiding citizens ‘criminals’ for owning firearms. I also think that if more people were trained to conceal carry that criminals would be less inclined to commit crimes against others. 

“I think having more people able to conceal carry would deter crime because it wouldn’t be known who might have a gun. A good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. Also getting rid of ‘gun-free zones’ because those are easy targets for mass shooters to attack.”

Dart held a similar perspective, as he thinks gun control will never work, but he said education around guns and mental health will help with mass shootings. 

“There are two major factors contributing to mass shootings,” Dart said. “First is mental health. Mass shooters aren’t right in the head. As a society, we need to prioritize counseling, therapy and mental health. There are many ways to do that, but that’s for a different story. The second factor is not enough people have guns and know how to use them.

“You might think this sounds counterproductive, but it makes sense. Hear me out, criminals are going to get guns even if they’re illegal. That’s why they’re criminals. They disobey the law. In order to defend yourself against a person with a gun, it works very well to have your own gun. The idea that banning guns will stop mass shootings is simply a fallacy. It will raise the confidence of murderers, knowing that their victims have no way to defend themselves.”

Jonah Dosedel, a junior in meteorology, voiced a similar opinion by pushing for education and mental health help. 

“Improve mental health care and education on firearm safety,” Dosedel said. “Making normal citizens more comfortable around guns may make people more willing to use them as self-defense tools instead of fearing them and wanting them removed. Bad people will do bad things, by removing guns, you make people more vulnerable to these monsters.”

A different perspective is presented by Sara Harris, a business administrator for electrical and computer engineering, who said military-grade weapons should be removed from the general public. 

“There is no such thing as ‘gun control’ until we remove military-style weapons,” Harris said. “Period. And the idea of an extended ‘waiting period’ is meaningless unless the information from all over the U.S. is updated and included in the database that gun sellers use to determine if someone should be sold a weapon of any kind.”

Brittney Harryman, a senior in psychology, seconded Harris’ opinion and said gun control is the solution to mass shootings. 

“No one should have access to military weapons except the military and it should be difficult to get any gun because of the damage they can do,” Harryman said. “Extreme gun control is the solution. It has worked in several other countries and I don’t see why it couldn’t work here.”

Sehba Faheem, a senior in biological systems engineering, said people should be doing everything they can to preserve people’s lives. 

“Whatever we can do to save lives, we should do. If that means changing our gun laws, I’m all for it,” Faheem said. “Whether it be restrictions or background checks or anything else, I’m not sure, but we need to have some change. We can’t just do business as usual while people are regularly gunned down. Something’s gotta give. We should limit the NRA by separating big money from politics, add background checks and reduce production of guns.”

Caitlyn Nolte, a senior in computer science, urged for guns laws to change in order to help stop mass shootings. 

“The laws needed to be updated with the times,” Nolte said. “Current gun control laws are a joke. There need to be more preventative measures to guarantee that people who should not have their hands on a gun will never get one. Specifically: mental health checks, bans on specific gun models, removing the opinion to buy guns without permits and so much more.”

Erickson said gun control laws should have increased many years ago. She said following the Sandy Hook shooting, there should have been a push for anti-gun laws. 

“There is absolutely no reason that any civilian in America needs an AR-15,” Erickson said. “I get that people really feel like they need guns in or outside the home for protection or whatever they believe it is for, but weapons of mass destruction is unnecessary. Innocent people are dying, how many more need to before we get some real change in this country.”

Thompson said they are settled on a middle ground pertaining to gun control. 

“There is a necessary limitation, like many laws, with gun control. To drive a car, you need to take a driving course and pass a test, have a license, registration, insurance AND update those things regularly to be able to drive, as well as follow a myriad of rules while you’re driving,” Thompson said. “We recognize that cars are a potential danger to ourselves and others, so collectively as a society we have put in place reasonable laws and regulations in an attempt to mitigate that risk at the expense of some of our freedoms.

“The same cannot be said for weapons invented for the sole purpose of harming and killing in this country apparently. I acknowledge the Second Amendment and I really could care less what dudes from a couple hundred years ago considered morally acceptable, especially when thousands of people are being murdered from gun violence every year. Also, I don’t advocate for removal of guns entirely or making firearms illegal.”

Thompson also said there is no universal solution to mass shootings, but there are steps that can be taken. 

“I don’t know that there is a universal ‘solution’ to mass shootings, but a solid approach would certainly include instituting stricter rules on the types of guns allowed, certain accessories, required training and licensure, to name a few,” Thompson said. “The patchwork nature of gun regulation varying from state to state makes most legislation that does exist ineffective. We need gun control measures on the federal level that apply to ALL Americans, including law enforcement.

“Additionally, addressing the growing activity of far-right organizations/individuals who are frequently the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks will be critical in identifying and preventing further loss of life from mass shootings.” 

Regardless of the lack of consensus in terms of the solution for mass shootings, there does seem to be an agreement that mass shootings are a negative defect ingrained in American lives.  

Following the most recent mass shootings within the past few months, the Biden-Harris administration is presenting a bill to address gun violence and public health

More resources in regards to mass shootings can be found here