Las Vegas shooting viewed from a different angle

Katie Devoe
News Staff Writer
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The most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 left at least 58 people dead and more than 500 injured at a country music festival, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant, shot into the crowd of concert-goers from his hotel room.
Pamela Laughon, chair of the psychology department at UNC Asheville, said Paddock did not fit the typical profile of a shooter.
“Mass shooters can be a little older, but it’s really rare to have somebody at 64 commit their first crime,” Laughon said. “I mean, as people age they tend to commit less crime.”
Laughon said crime grabs people’s attention and when a disaster happens they pay extra attention.
“I think crime attracts people in general right now. So, anytime there’s something like this I think people are just fascinated,” Laughon said. “This of course happened almost on TV itself.”
Laughon said frequent displays of violence on media in the news or TV can have an impact on individuals.
“Psychology has been studying violence and media effects of violence for a long time,” Laughon said. “The more you’re exposed to that the less you react. So the phenomenon we call desensitization to violence is very real.”
Volker Frank, professor of sociology, said events like shootings present a chance to discuss something larger than the event itself. Frank also notes the public’s reaction to violence when they see or hear about it from the media can be decreased as they become desensitized.
“So these events, as horrible as they are, also present opportunities for us to ask more serious questions, to look in the mirror and ask what are we doing to ourselves,” Frank said. “It’s a question of sensitivity, too, that we have become numb a little bit. It’s part of a human condition that we become numb when things frequently occur.”
Laughon and Frank said they recognize people have become desensitized to violent events in recent years. Americans typically focus their attention on one person instead of the main problem, Frank said.
“Here in the United States, historically and culturally, we tend to reduce the implication and the meaning of the problem to an individual,” Frank said.
Frank said people should look at an event from a different perspective to better understand it. Frank also noted identifying the problem of a situation as an individual does not show the greater issue.
“A possible different approach lies in the way that we frame what happens,” Frank said. “If you take the event that happened in Vegas as the act of an individual then you’re not going to get very far. The question really is, is this individual symptomatic of a much larger problem.”
Some UNCA students view the Las Vegas shooting as part of a larger issue. Maya Sugg, a senior business student, openly spoke with her friends about the event.
“I’ve talked to a few of my friends,” Sugg said. “I think mostly what I’ve seen is people really are upset and angry that this happened so many times and nothing’s been done.”
Sugg said the way people react to events like the Las Vegas shooting can make a difference by initiating political engagement from citizens.
“I think it’s important that we take an event like this and we do politicize it because it’s a political issue that needs to be addressed,” Sugg said. “If you actually call your representatives and you say you should take a strong stance. Make sure they’re representing you.”
Laws from Congress and regulations on gun control can only solve one part of the main problem, Frank said. He said only looking at gun control limits people from thinking about the whole problem.
“A focus on gun control is useful, but an exclusive focus on gun control misses the bigger picture,” Frank said. “In a way it becomes a blockage for us to think about other things than legalistic gun control issues.”
Frank said people have the ability to be part of the solution by openly discussing polarizing subjects.Thinking about more than gun control opens people up to other ideas about the problem, Frank said.
“Civil society, particularly in the United States, is strong and in the past we’ve talked about and tackled issues that divide us or separate us,” Frank said. “I would also appeal to civil society and maybe to institutions to pause for a moment to reflect and seize an opportunity to think about that.”