If we’ve spent any time on social media, then we’ve certainly come across one of the platform’s primary currencies: the meme.
Memes are typically a funny photo (or text or even video) that is copied and forwarded by a number of online users at once. It’s kind of like what we mean when we say something is going “viral,” but in a way that is typically limited to a Facebook or Twitter stream.
One meme has been circulating in recent weeks, and while it’s being rapidly shared by many people on social media, it’s not very funny. In fact, it’s not funny at all.
It was first published by satirical magazine Mad in October 2017, and it’s called “Mad’s Do-It-Yourself Constantly-Reoccurring Mass Shooting News Story.” It’s basically a way to write the latest story on a mass shooting, allowing you to check the appropriate boxes to help complete each sentence.
For example, “A gunman opened fire at a ...” — with choices including grade school, high school, college, shopping mall and concert — “... today, killing” blank “and injuring” blank. It goes on allowing you to choose how many types of specific weapons the gunman had, if he was taken into custody or killed, and even includes a line talking to “a local resident at the scene” who could describe their feelings as “total disbelief,” “strong anger” or “complete dismay.”
But that’s really what it has turned into. Since Mad published that bit of satire, there have been 665 mass shootings in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive, killing 732 people and injuring 2,703 more.
That includes the two shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where at least 31 people were killed and 52 injured. It does not include the Las Vegas musical festival shooting that killed 59 and injured 422, which happened on Oct. 1, 2017, and led to Mad’s meme-worthy “do-it-yourself story.”
How many more shootings must there be before reporters can finally stop writing the same story over again, and all of us stop reading the same story over again?
After every single shooting, people near the scene say they never expected this to happen in their community. Lawmakers vow to do something about it. Groups like the National Rifle Association and politicians they support — typically of the Republican persuasion — point the finger at everything except the availability of military-grade weapons in the general population.
We seem to spend more time in this space calling for reasonable gun control than we do anything else. Yet, even that voice goes unheeded.
No other country has this issue. No, the United States doesn’t lead in gun violence on a global scale, but it’s hard to find any other country that suffers from civilian mass shootings on a basis as regular as the one right here at home.
Yet, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action. Just because we’re not the worst doesn’t mean it’s OK. Tell that to the families of the 732 killed since the Las Vegas shooting. Tell that to the 2,703 people still recovering from physical injuries — not to even get started on the psychological injuries — from such terrible acts.
“It won’t happen here,” you might say. “It won’t ever affect me.” Until it does. And when it does, it will be too late. You can’t undo the damage a bullet can have on your life, on the lives of your family, and on everyone else the firing of that bullet victimizes.
Enough with the talk. Enough with the finger-pointing. To our elected officials: Fix this. And fix it now.