Is gun violence making you a nervous wreck? Turn off news, Rutgers expert says
Whether it’s half way around the world in the Middle East, in France or Germany, or closer to home in Dallas, Louisiana, Florida or right here in New Jersey, gun violence seems to be a never-ending threat these days.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports that 306 people in America are shot every day in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings and cases of police intervention.
Meanwhile, FBI data shows there have been more than 200 mass killings in America over the past decade, tragedies involving four or more victims.
According to Rutgers University sociology professor Deborah Carr, all of the constant exposure we get to gun violence can be distressing to many people.
“It’s painful to watch people suffer, and it’s even more painful when you see these images repeatedly, that’s something that happens today that didn’t happen in the past,” she said.
Most data demonstrates that crime is down in the United States. But many people may feel that the opposite is true because of the images they see on the news.
"For many who see the violence repeated over and over again, it might raise levels of fear unnecessarily because people are being driven by their emotions rather than by the data," she said.
Carr pointed out “with 24-hour television news stations, with the internet, we have constant access to these reminders of all the violence that’s happening in the world, and the fact that everyday people, people walking out at a mall, might be killed. It makes people feel like they too might be killed because they are an everyday person.”
Carr said most people "aren't truly shaken when they see a travesty happen in a place that's far away from us.
"Because it seems so different, we can’t relate to it. However, when we see something violent happen in a place that’s familiar to us — or a place we’ve visited, for instance —that familiarity makes people feel that, 'gee, this is something that could happen to me.'”
Carr stresses, however, that it’s important to recognize “these acts of aggression have always happened around the world," but media makes them a constant reminder.
She said all of the shootings we see on TV and online present “a constant threat of emotional threat at all times, so I would suggest that people step away from these stories after a while. It does start to lead to fear and distress."
Carr says it's a good idea to prepare for a potential violent incident.
“It’s just as if you’re going on an airplane, and they show you where the exit doors are. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It does mean, however, if on the off chance it does, people will be slightly better prepared. If something unexpected happens people will lose their heads and panic, but a little bit of training can go a long way."
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Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com