Change the mindset.
Ditch the habit.
People murdered with a gun do not ‘lose’ their lives.
I know, I know – the dictionary defines ‘lose’ as “to suffer loss through the death of a person”.
Whose ‘loss’ would that be, though?
How about the person who died?
In gun violence vernacular, the word is ‘murdered’.
The very definition of murder makes me cringe.
Murder involves a ‘taking’. It involves someone’s life being ripped away in a most violent and unforgiving manner.
There is no sugarcoating that fact.
Old habits die hard. Eliminating clichés from our lexicon of word usage is harder.
I catch myself thinking ‘lives are lost’ more often than I care to admit upon learning of a mass shooting. But I catch and correct myself because that terminology no longer emotionally reflects how I view mass shootings.
It didn’t used to be that way.
Mass shootings used to cause me a lot of anxiety, sadness, and serious depression. Now, mass shootings make me angry…very angry.
‘Lives are lost’ just does not adequately convey that anger any longer as death tolls from mass shootings are made public. In fact, hearing those words to describe fatalities in mass shootings is offensive to me now…seriously offensive.
So, when I hear a media pundit say ‘lives were lost’ in a mass shooting, that’s a trigger for me (no pun intended). It’s especially so when comparisons to other mass shootings are inevitably made.
It only adds to the problem when pundits and politicians inevitably offer some of those very effective (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek) thoughts and prayers to accompany the ‘lives are lost’ mantra.
No action, but thoughts and prayers should do the trick, eh?
But I digress.
In today’s adversarial gun violence/control debate, using ‘lives are lost’ to describe murder is a cop-out.
It isn’t sympathetic.
It isn’t empathetic.
It’s just as bad as someone offering those well intentioned but thoroughly ineffective thoughts and prayers mentioned previously.
Someone was killed.
Someone was murdered.
Their friends, their families, their loved ones were traumatized.
It is sudden.
It is violent.
It is, above all else, fatal.
It doesn’t get any worse than that.
Is it really that difficult to understand that ‘lives are lost’ terminology to describe murders in a mass shooting of any kind – school, movie theater, church, university, home, music venue – can be, and arguably should be, viewed as inappropriate?
I see the words ‘lives were lost’ used by those keeping track of gun violence statistics.
I see the words ‘lives were lost’ used by relatives.
I see the words ‘lives were lost’ used by friends I’ve never even met on social media.
I’ve started calling all of them out on this. Some don’t like me doing that. Others have been very accepting.
I won’t stop.
Until ‘lives were lost’ is no longer used to describe those murdered every time there’s a horrific mass shooting, we’re fighting a losing battle to end gun violence.
We actually need to get, and stay, angry about use of that label.
Then we need to turn that anger into positive action.
Some are already doing so. More need to be.
There’s a movement that started shortly after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado called No Notoriety. They issued a challenge to the media:
“In an effort to reduce future tragedies, we CHALLENGE THE MEDIA – calling for RESPONSIBLE MEDIA COVERAGE FOR THE SAKE OF PUBLIC SAFETY when reporting on individuals who commit or attempt acts of rampage mass violence thereby depriving violent like minded individuals the media celebrity and media spotlight they so crave.”
Their efforts are commendable and they are slowly and inexorably making headway.
Visit their social media pages and pledge to help them out:
Perhaps it’s time to take a page out of the No Notoriety playbook, start advocating eliminating the words ‘lives were lost’ from our descriptions of mass shooting victims, and consistently and persistently say what it is – people were murdered.
My two cents.
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