Editorial: What are you doing this Fourth of July?


Central Avenue in Highland Park, where a mass shooting occurred during the 2022 Fourth of July Parade. Photo by Chase Goldstein

Families and friends came together to celebrate the Fourth of July, an American tradition. Suddenly, bullets were fired into the crowd. It was a mass shooting, another American tradition. 

The Highland Park shooting last July is a devastating reminder of the destruction gun violence continues to impose on the United States. Last May, people shopping at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. were killed. Ten days later, students and teachers in Uvalde, Tex. were killed. From parades to movie theaters to schools, no matter where the shootings are or how many people are killed, we have accepted these mass shootings as our norm. They happen so often that we are numb. 

It can be easier to cope with mass shootings by feeling numb. Avoiding conversations about them makes it easier to pretend like they are not happening. It is less painful to ignore thoughts of mass shootings because thinking about them terrifies us. Some students check classrooms for windows on the first day of school to plan an escape in case of a shooter or avoid wearing noise-canceling headphones for fear they might not hear gunshots. 

When news of another mass shooting flashes on our phones, over our television screens or on social media, it frightens us, but then we immediately shut that feeling down, accepting defeat. Hopelessness makes us think there is nothing we can do and numbs us to the situation.

Even though mass shootings are hard to think about, it is important to become less desensitized so we can be aware of this issue in our country. Doing so helps us make informed decisions, such as choosing who to vote for. Focusing on the individual stories of victims impacted by mass shootings can help humanize the situation. It is hard to grasp the impact of a mass shooting from statistics, but it is easier to understand the devastation from a single story. People can take action by volunteering or donating money to organizations aimed at combating gun violence, such as March for Our Lives, Everytown for Gun Safety and the July 4th Recovery Fund.

While it may seem there is nothing we can do to fully stop mass shootings, we can combat being desensitized. We should not hesitate to make a difference just because we think our actions will not create change. We cannot continue to live with the constant fear of mass shootings, and we must not be desensitized to the violence destroying our country. We should be able to celebrate the Fourth of July in peace, shop for groceries without fear of gunshots going off and go to school without needing an escape plan. We need to end this gruesome American tradition.