Only a week ago, a gunman opened fire on a Navy facility, killing 12 people and wounding eight. It was the deadliest shooting in the U.S. since a gunman opened fire on first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary last December. You wouldn’t know it from the news, though. Public awareness of the shooting has fizzled quickly, and as the families of victims are still reeling from the tragedy, it seems much of the United States has moved on.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook, the Sunday news shows filled their panels with guests discussing the gunman’s intentions. Senators vowed to take legislative action. The country listened, and wept, as President Obama gave an emotional speech about the lives of children, gone too soon.
But the memorial for the 12 victims of the Navy Yard shooting came and went without much fanfare this weekend, despite President Obama’s presence. The same Senators who came forward with gun legislation after Newtown said they don’t plan to bring up any bills this time around. The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre came onto the Sunday shows with a meager defense of the organization’s “good guys with a gun” mentality, but overall, the shows’ discussions were tempered with debates about the government shutdown over Obamacare.
A simple graph of Google searches confirms that public interest in the shooting is low:
So what is the difference? In one case, a young, white gunman randomly fired at a group of children. In the other, an older black man with a history of mental illness returned to his workplace to commit the crime, and killed a group of older and middle-aged people, either civilians, contractors, or members of the Navy. Plus, this time the shooting wasn’t in a random Connecticut town. It was in Washington, DC, a city that the rest of the country associates with government dysfunction, not typical American life.
But as John Feehery wrote in a blog post cross-posted on Slate, “Official Washington… [has] already moved on to the next thing. To them, like the various other needless and senseless violent gun attacks that have befallen the country, this is just another example of how tragedy hits folks outside the bubble. ”
In some ways, that’s the point. The mass shooting at Navy Yard last week was a particularly intense reminder, but it also typified what happens around the country all the time. Just days after the Navy Yard massacre, 23 people were wounded and three killed in one night in Chicago, with what police presume was an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine. Over the weekend, another five people were added to the death toll and another were 20 injured — and that’s in Chicago alone.
After the Navy Yard shooting, NPR was moved to ask, “Is Public Numb To Mass Shootings?” That headline is an eerie echo of a 2009 CBS story that questioned: “Are We Numb To Mass Murder?” Americans, it seems, are still struggling to find the answer.