Are We Becoming Desensitized to Gun Violence?

Sep 1, 2015

From Texas Standard:

Since the televised murder of two reporters last week in Virginia, a 17-year-old was killed in a shooting near an elementary school in southwest Houston, a police officer was shot and killed in Sunset, Louisiana, when he tried to intervene in a violent domestic dispute, and an on-campus shooting at Texas Southern University injured one person.

Those are just some of the deadly shootings that happened since then — and just a few of the gun homicides that happen everyday in America. An average of 80 gun deaths occur a day, and about 30 of those are homicides.

But those are not the murders being talked about by the President and the Presidential candidates, and being shown all over cable news. And there's one reason for that: They did not play out live on television.

Yesterday's murders, and the snuff films that resulted from them, gave us an up close and personal look at gun violence. In the case of the video posted by the killer, the world literally got a first-person view of homicide.

Is it healthy for us to be forced to stare at the grisly reality of gun violence? Or is it harming us, or maybe even desensitizing us to it?

Art Markman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, joins the Standard to talk about how we cope when faced with such violence.