Is It Safe to Go Out? For Many, Mass Shootings Make Risk Inescapable

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO — Colorado Springs, Colorado Uvalde. Buffalo. Portland. The city of Highland Park After the lockdowns for the 2020 pandemic, there have been more mass shootings in big cities and small towns all over the country.

And in the middle of the sadness, shock, and loss, each one makes more businesses, schools, hotels, and nightclubs increase their security.

Experts think that this adds to the fear that millions of Americans already feel. Even though people dying in a mass shooting is very rare, there are many public reminders of it. They show up often in the news. And the next one seems to be even harder to predict.

Authorities say that on Tuesday night, a Walmart manager opened fire in the store where he worked in Chesapeake, Virginia. He killed six people and hurt at least five others before turning the gun on himself.

A few days earlier, a shooter killed five people at an LQBQT pub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A retired US Army major and several diners fought the shooter.

Between these two shootings, six more people were killed and 14 more were hurt in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, and Illinois, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which keeps track of shootings involving four or more people other than the gunman.

Each event is very personal to the people who were hurt or who lived through it. For the rest of us, each new event makes us feel less safe and less like we belong. Some people can’t handle the constant reminders.

Haylea Turner, 24, who goes to Club Q often, said, “It’s sad that we all have to live with this worry in the back of our minds all the time.”

Turner was not there that night at the club. She said that this is partly because she is afraid to go to places like movie theatres and college classrooms where shootings have happened before.

“Because gun violence in America is so senseless and is getting worse in a horrifying way,” she said, “I have lived a more isolated life out of sheer fear.”

Is It Safe to Go Out For Many, Mass Shootings Make Risk Inescapable

Rising Numbers, Long-term Impact

The Gun Violence Archive says that the number of mass shootings in the U.S. has reached new highs in the past few years. Since the initiative started in 2014, there were the most shootings last year. As of Wednesday, there were 608 of them.

A different AP-USA TODAY project that keeps track of major shootings shows the same thing. The Gun Violence Archive says that the number of mass shootings in the U.S. has reached new highs in the past few years.

Since the initiative started in 2014, there were the most shootings last year. As of Wednesday, there were 608 of them. A different AP-USA TODAY project that keeps track of major shootings shows the same thing.

In Uvalde, the elementary school where 22 kids and teachers died on May 24 will be torn down and a new, safer campus will be built in its place. After the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, schools have become safer.

After the shooting at a King Soopers grocery store on March 22, 2021, several Boulder grocery stores now have armed police officers or private security guards.

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Chris Hastings, the owner of a bar in San Francisco, gave his staff new “active shooter” training at the Lookout pub in the Castro District, which is known as an LGBTQ neighborhood.

After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 that killed 46 people, Hastings’ employees went through training. As part of the training, people learn how to turn down the club’s lights and music in case of an attack.

He said that employees learn where the exits are so they can help customers leave. Hastings is upset and worried about the people who work there and the customers. “It makes me mad that we need more practice to have fun.”

Is It Safe to Go Out For Many, Mass Shootings Make Risk Inescapable

Explanation of the Trauma Response

Experts told USA TODAY that the chance of a mass shooting is low, but the fact that the locations are unknown makes many people feel stressed. There are reminders everywhere, even outside your grocery store, school, or movie theatre.

“Is the grocery store safe?” is a natural question to have. Is it safe to drop kids off at school? Is dinner safe? Is public safe?” Stephanie Robilio, a Fort Lauderdale clinical director, remarked.

She said, “Think about what this does to our mental health if you or someone else has these ideas.” Steven Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance in Connecticut, said that Americans are afraid of mass shootings because they are uncommon but unknown.

Adelman has been a witness in personal injury lawsuits after mass shootings, including the Route 91 Harvest shooting in Las Vegas.

In the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, a man took an arsenal of guns and ammunition to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel and opened fire on the people below.

After the attack, hotels in Las Vegas started checking every room, even ones with “do not disturb” signs. Adelman said that the epidemic is a great example of how most people react to trauma.

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He said that while some people still avoid big groups or places with poor ventilation, Club Q was open and busy, showing that most people get back to normal pretty quickly.

“Don’t spread fear,” Adelman, 59, told them. Habitual. When people’s usual way of doing things is interrupted, they react in different ways for a while, but after a while, many of them go back to what they were doing before.

After a school shooting in Uvalde, Nancy Sutton and her husband put up security cameras and started carrying guns under their clothes. She said that the tension on the U.S.-Mexico border always made them nervous, but the attack on Robb Elementary School has made them less confident in the safety of their small town.

“The shooting made us more cautious,” Sutton, who is 59, said. They still go to big school events and parties. James Miller, a licensed psychotherapist, says that many people who are nearby during a shooting end up with “secondary trauma.”

Is It Safe to Go Out For Many, Mass Shootings Make Risk Inescapable

Miller said this happens when we see or hear something that makes us feel traumatized, gives us PTSD or wears us out emotionally. We might have the same symptoms as the people who were hurt because we can imagine how scared and hurt they were.

“Similar symptoms,” Miller remarked.

Living in Terror

Time can help lessen the immediate effects, but first responders and grocery store workers are becoming more and more at risk. In addition to the Boulder King Soopers shooting in 2021, grocery workers were also the target of the Buffalo Tops and Walmart shootings in 2022 and on Tuesday.

Kim Cordova, president of Colorado’s Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said that after the 2021 attack in Boulder, union members pushed for mass-shooter safety training and ways to calm down angry customers.

Cordova, who is 55 years old, said that a customer wearing camouflage shorts, a face mask, and military gloves walked into a business in Colorado with an AR-15-style rifle slung across his back. The man left without being told off for breaking store rules, but Cordova said that it scared the staff.

“It’s scary to live in fear,” he said. “You’re waiting for something bad to happen.” In 2016, one of the first police officers to arrive at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub was Omar Delgado. Delgado was a hero, but he had to quit because of PTSD.

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Delgado said that his recovery, which has taken six years, is “still a long process.” He hopes that victims of recent mass shootings can help and comfort each other.

“Colorado Springs throws you back when you read, hear, or see about it,” Delgado said. Going back can be worse. He worries that things will get worse if one gunman is inspired by what the media says about others. Can I invite more?”

Turner says that the shooting at Club Q is no longer shocking. When the club reopens, she wants to help the LBGQT community in a conservative city get back its safe space.

“You’ve lost your emotional home. I always found a sense of community and support at Club Q, but now that’s gone. I know I have to show resilience and keep getting together in safe, open places. Hiding out of fear would let people who are mean and say mean things win, so I refuse to live in fear. I need to love more than ever right now.”

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