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How Does This Keep Happening? A Conversation About Apathy Surrounding Mass Shootings

(CBS4) - One day after 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed inside a Texas elementary school, CBS4 wanted to find answers surrounding the fact we continue to see the same outcome with no evidence of serious change. Kim Gorgens, a professor of psychology at the University of Denver, explained part of the equation is balancing our reactions to the tragedies.

"We are threading a needle here where we have to care enough to mount a response, to shoulder it, the grief of the community and the people who are personally affected, and we need to make space for being completely immobilized by that grief," Gorgens explained.

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She detailed a situation where feeling too much of the pain and suffering can lead to a sense of hopelessness, but shutting off emotional connection completely leads to disengagement and a lack of solutions as well.

"The piece of apathy that we need to be so careful about is to surrender our activism or to give up entirely on making those kinds of changes in our families, in our communities, in our government structures." Gorgens said. "We need to continue to care, and we need to find ways to move forward together and shoulder the burden together.

It's a mission Columbine survivor Crystal Woodman-Miller has taken upon herself to stop school shootings like these from happening again. She agrees, there is more work to be done.

"I feel hope in that sense because I believe in us as humanity... But it feels daunting. It feels heavy when we've come 23 years, and we've seen, as you've said, just very little progress," Woodman-Miller said.

She believes the solution will need to be multifaceted in order to address the factors that combine into mass shootings, but said change can start now.

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"Something is better than nothing, even if it's small, even if it feels insignificant," Woodman-Miller said. "I think whatever matters to you as a family unit or as an individual, you need to go, to put feet to those those actions, you need to put action to your words and your thoughts right now, and I believe that it will kind of start a groundswell."

Gorgens also is hopeful this time could be the time there is realized change.

"This may be a moment where our collective tolerance for inaction has been exhausted and where we start to demand accountability from our communities, both at a local level and at a larger level," Gorgens said.

"Our tolerance for you know, the moments of silence and thoughts and prayers, and that perhaps this is the time when that tide will turn both at polling stations but also with fiscal year budgets for next year, that we might be able to make some meaningful changes."


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