Brian Mark Weber / May 17, 2019

There Are Heroes Among Us

Mass shooters are increasingly encountering brave people who are fighting back.

Kendrick Castillo, Riley Howell, and Lori Gilbert-Kaye all lost their lives in the past month by standing in the path of bullets meant to kill others.

Valerie Richardson writes at The Washington Times, “Not only did their sacrifice help staunch what could have been much higher casualty counts — four people died in the three would-be mass shootings from April 27 to May 7 — but the stories of extraordinary courage have dominated the news cycle, depriving the alleged shooters of the media oxygen needed to achieve lasting notoriety.”

It’s about time we stop sensationalizing every shooting. Doing so only gives cold-blooded killers endless hours of fame while encouraging copycat killings such as last week’s deadly incident in Denver, which was designed to be the next Columbine.

Fortunately, others are stepping up and trying to change the way the media cover these events.

As Adam K. Raymond notes in New York magazine, “Six years after the founding of the group No Notoriety, the movement is catching on. Started by Tom and Caren Teves after their son Alex was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, No Notoriety calls for the media to deprive mass shooters of infamy.” Raymond adds that even Colorado District Attorney George Brauchler asked the media to “adopt a ‘no-notoriety’ approach.”

But here’s something else to consider: It seems that ever since the Columbine school massacre 20 years ago, we seem to have given inordinate power to those who seek to do us harm. Students in schools and employees in the workplace are taught to run, hide, and hope for the best. And fear among defenseless victims is what drives some of these killers to carry out their carnage.

Some of us, it seems, have had enough of this pervasive “flight” mentality.

National Review’s David French wonders “if the sheer number of mass killings has caused a psychological change in a segment of the American people.” He continues, “I do wonder if ‘fight’ is replacing ‘flight’ in enough American hearts that immediate and courageous resistance becomes the norm — and that killers will start to understand that they’ll have to instantly battle one or more raging, charging men before they can complete their terrible, deadly work.”

French adds, “And if we can continue to honor and elevate the heroes at the same time that we ignore the killer, so that they don’t enjoy the infamy of their predecessors, perhaps we can start to change the psychology of a dreadful national moment.”

It’s a compelling point. The media tend to elevate the names and biographies of the killers, instantly turning them into celebrities when those we should celebrate are the selfless and courageous among us.

Some experts disagree.

NBC’s Elizabeth Chuck writes, “The move has been widely hailed as an act of heroism. But some school safety experts and psychologists fear it’s indicative of a growing pressure that American schoolchildren feel to neutralize threats at their schools — an unfair expectation that they say sometimes puts students in danger where it may not already have existed.”

Maybe, but no one’s pressuring young people to become heroes. Perhaps some kids in school are deciding that they’re tired of being told on a daily basis to live in fear and to run from danger. Perhaps they realize that we’re making ourselves more vulnerable to those who would do us harm.

Who knows how many other students would have died in Denver had Kendrick Castillo, Brendan Bialy, and Joshua Jones not risked their lives — and in Castillo’s case gave his life — to stop the Colorado assailant? Have we become afraid to defend one another? Or is it still a part of the American fabric to be brave in the face of those who threaten our way of life?

The problem of mass shootings defies easy solutions. But perhaps we can start by making sure that the next would-be killer who walks into a school or a church knows that someone will be ready to stop him — and that his name will never be uttered by the media.

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