Again. This week, we once again took part in a distinctly American ritual, cycling through the shock, the sadness, and the cynicism that accompany a mass shooting. The half-life of these tragedies grows ever shorter, as the country collectively acknowledges, a little faster each time, that little is likely to be done to prevent the next massacre. We cringe at the footage, look for some explanation in the shooter’s background, and mourn the dead—but we move on, knowing that we’ll be here again before too long. The time between these mass attacks is now measured not in years or months, but weeks and days. As defined by gun attacks in which four or more people are shot, Las Vegas was America’s 337th mass shooting this year.
Consider for a moment the survivors of these rampages—the thousands of Americans who have seen friends and loved ones fall, and have crouched on a floor slicked with blood to avoid whizzing bullets while wondering if this day will be their last. Since the Columbine attack 18 years ago, The Washington Post recently calculated, some 135,000 American students have experienced a shooting at school. How will surviving these nightmarish events shape their sense of security, and echo throughout the rest of their lives? Mass-shooting survivors have described grappling with recurring nightmares for years, obsessively searching for exits in every room they enter, and being haunted by guilt for having made it out alive. So when we recall the terrible drumbeat of recent mass attacks—Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Aurora, Newtown, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, and the hundreds of others that don’t make the national news—we can’t limit the casualties to those the bullets found. The cost of this national insanity also includes a traumatized army of people with wounds that we cannot easily see. They, too, need our attention and help. Their number jumped by 22,000 this week.