Are We Numb to Mass Shootings?


When they come home from war, we expect them to be safe. They expect to be safe. When I work homecoming retreats, so often soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen tell me that their feeling at homecoming is simply… relief. 

The wife (or husband) is OK. The kids are OK. They are OK. Well, pretty much OK.

Our service members expect to go on with their lives in the country they fought to protect. Surely their lives in America should be IED free and bomb free and shooter free.

With this new tragedy at Fort Hood, in which a soldier went on a shooting rampage on base and killed three service members and wounded or injured 16 others before killing himself, there is yet another ping in that assumption of safety.

Maybe we are getting used to that in America.

News reports were quick to note that Fort Hood was the site of the worst mass shooting on record at a military base that left 13 dead and 32 wounded and countless others terrorized in 2009.

They reminded us about the shootings at the Navy Yard that left 12 families grieving for their loved ones just a few months ago.

They only had to look back a couple of weeks to find a shooting about the USS Mahan in port that left a sailor dead.

While the murder rate in America is down (due in part to improvements in emergency care at hospitals), the rate of mass shootings is up. None of us have to think too hard to remember 32 dead at Virginia Tech, 27 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary, 12 killed and 58 wounded at a a movie theater in Colorado. We don’t have to stretch to remember Columbine.

Instead officials tell us that we have learned a lot since the last mass casualties at Fort Hood. We have learned to install systems on bases like the one at Fort Hood that warned residents to shelter in place. Because that is what we are like in America now.

Mass shootings happen here.

I’m sure Fort Hood soldiers went home to their families last night to check that the wife (or husband) was OK. That the kids were OK. That they were OK.

Like most of us in the military community, I’m sure their hearts went out to the families of the dead and injured. I'm sure they supervised homework and emptied dishwashers and went around the house turning off lights and shutting blinds and locking doors.

And as they kissed their kids good night and checked the weather for tomorrow, I hope the feeling they had was gratitude. Or relief.

Or something very much like it.

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