UTA community discusses anxiety, fear concerning gun violence in America

When psychology sophomore Ayleanna Westbrooks goes to the store, the thought that she might have to hide in the event of an active shooter is always in the back of her mind. 

It makes her nervous because she tries to be alert and aware of her surroundings at all times so that if something were to happen, she could put herself in a safer situation, she said. 

Westbrooks said people are feeling more stress and fear when it comes to mass shootings these days because they never know what’s going to happen or if they’ll be next.  

“People can’t even feel comfortable going to church, going to school,” she said. 

Within the last month, multiple mass shootings occurred throughout various states, including Georgia, Illinois and Texas, according to Gun Violence Archive’s website.  

The frequency of these events takes a mental toll on not just the survivors, but their families, friends and the general public. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and trauma are just some of the issues that can stay with people after a mass shooting, according to the National Center for PTSD. 

Seungmug Lee, criminology associate professor, said anytime he hears about a mass shooting, it breaks his heart. He said survivors, the injured and their family members go through pain and sorrow that can last forever. 

Lee said there weren’t as many mass shootings last year because of the pandemic, but in the last two weeks there have been seven or more. 

Why it happens is the billion dollar question, he said. Everyone wants a clear answer in the hope that once mass shootings are understood, good preventive approaches and programs can be implemented. 

When it comes to gun laws, Lee said he thinks they are lax and that there is a sharp divide between gun rights and gun control in American culture, with no middle ground. 

Mass shootings are an American phenomenon, Lee said. In other countries where gun laws are very strict, rifles and pistols have to be registered at the local police department.  

But in the U.S. gun laws are more lax, and the availability is a key factor in why mass shootings have increased, Lee said. 

Psychology sophomore Abigail Lozano said her sister lived in Las Vegas when the 2017 Mandalay Bay shooting occurred, and as a result Lozano is even more aware that a shooting can happen anywhere. 

Her sister wasn’t involved in the incident, but it’s taxing to wonder every day if something might  happen to her or her family, Lozano said. The thought makes her anxious.   

She said she believes many others are walking around with the same anxiety, especially if they live in a place where mass shootings have occurred frequently. 

The best way communities can deal with the effects of mass shootings is by showing support for local businesses, spreading awareness of these issues and creating support groups, Lozano said. 

People love to have a community that’s behind them so they don’t have to go through things alone, she said. 

@JMarieFarmer84

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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