Are Americans becoming "numb" to mass shootings?

Thirty-eight Americans were killed in shootings on Sunday, and that's not counting the 26 murdered in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

What happens when the unthinkable seems to happen every day?

Whether it's "unbelievable" five weeks ago in Las Vegas or "unreal" five years ago in Newtown, Connecticut, Americans may need to find some new language for mass shootings. Sadly, their frequency makes them all too real and believable.

Since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando 17 months ago, there have been 555 mass shootings as the FBI defines them: four or more people shot at once. Approximately 689 people have been killed, and nearly 2,700 wounded. 

Two of the five deadliest shootings in modern American history have taken place in the last 35 days. They are all competing for space in our collective consciousness -- and getting crowded out.  

Take the shooting Scott Ostrem is accused of at a Walmart in Colorado. Three people were killed five days ago. Chances are you hadn't heard about it.

"What happens to a culture when more than 50 dead and more than 500 injured is suddenly yesterday's news?" CBS News asked Frank Ochberg, a psychiatry professor at Michigan State University.

"I think we lose something vital. Emotion often drives thought and too much exposure to the same kind of violence reduces that emotional response," Ochberg said.

So yes, we can forget "unreal" and "unbelievable."  Maybe the word we're looking for to describe our reaction to all these mass shootings is "numb."

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.