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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Shootings usher in new normal — but will it last?

Shootings never seem to be predictable, but we can predict with 100 percent certainty another shooting will happen.

I try not to subject myself to the evidence leading up to a shooting. Where no evidence exists, someone will make something seem as though it is evidence. On top of that, we all have some mental issues. What is scarier than that, though, is that we have become desensitized to shootings – and it’s not just us!

In a New York Times article, a Nairobi local Stanley Gazemba, in response to the Nairobi mall shooting, said, “Like most Kenyans, my first instinct was to jump on a bus and go and see for myself – a bad habit we have often been warned against.”


When something happens that involves police sirens, flashing lights and loud noises, we are naturally inclined to see what happened. In order to do so, we have to get close to the scene. Two reasons are behind this urge.

First and foremost, it’s curiosity. It’s human interest, and it’s human nature. I can scream “FIRE!” in the office, but no one will run as fast as those who actually see it. Seeing is both believing and feeling. That’s the heart of every shooting. We no longer feel anything until we see it and nothing has ever beaten seeing something with our own eyes.

Secondly, society has developed both the desire and need for citizen journalism. We have begun to trust the tweets of people at the scene of a shooting more than what an official news source says about the incident. In fact, many news sources are leveraging citizen journalism in their own stories.

To be blatant, citizen journalism makes us feel special. Guess who received the most attention during the recent shots fired on Langdon Street? Those closest to it did. They’ve become famous this last week because they got to report their first-hand experience.

“Shots were fired right in front of my house,” said a student I overheard in the hallway.

Yes, but what are we going to do about it?

Run, but which way?

Five years ago, you would have never seen me run toward a scene, but I have been so desensitized that you may find me running toward one now (depending on how severe it is, of course). Still, call me stupid or call me senile, but don’t call me behind in brain development. You can no longer argue that shootings aren’t the norm. It’s not a matter of if a shooting will occur; it’s just a matter of when and where. I, for one, will not live in fear of another one happening when I already know it will. Be aware, be safe, but don’t be afraid.

In light of the shots fired on Langdon, it was unclear if the shots were aimed at anyone. When we read that “shots were fired,” we automatically assumed that they were fired at people. An assumption based on history and past (but all-too-recent) experience.

The new norm

At a memorial service for the families of the Navy Yard massacre victims, President Barack Obama said, “I fear there’s a creeping resignation that this is somehow the new normal.”

Well, Obama, it is.

On the Wednesday night filled with WiscAlerts, I found much of the city carrying on as normal, at least to the extent they were allowed to. Many campus buildings went on lockdown and forced students and staff from continuing their day as normal.

After a meeting with a group of friends to work on a school project, I headed back to my apartment on East Gilman Street and saw people casually walking down Langdon as if nothing were happening. After reflecting on this, I have to ask what I have already answered: Is this the new normal?

I have to agree with Obama that “It ought to obsess us, it ought to lead to some sort of transformation.”

It may seem like we are seeing a transformation on campus with all the reminders from the University of Wisconsin Police Department, City of Madison Police Department and Dean of Students Lori Berquam to report sketchy scenes and to be safe — but what really needs to transform is us.

I don’t want to feel comfortable with the fact that gun shots were recently fired. I don’t want our (or Gazemba’s) first instinct to be to go to the scene and see what happened. I don’t want to assume “shots fired” means that an active shooter is gunning down people at random.

Charlie Freyre, in his column “UW in lockdown: lessons learned from shots fired” said, “Doing nothing at all gradually makes violence the socially acceptable norm, even if we don’t realize it.”

It’s already a norm, but can we refuse to accept it? Can we transform?

Garth Beyer ([email protected]is a senior majoring in journalism. 

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