The Only Thing Changing About Mass Shootings Is That I'm More Scared

by Alexandra Svokos

I spent the last "Hunger Games" movie thinking about what I would do if a shooter walked into the theater.

My family went to the movies the night before Thanksgiving, and I was nervous that my sisters or parents would be moving trying to cover me from a gunman, when really we should all just drop and play dead. I wondered if I should whisper the plan to my sister next to me, just in case.

When my family walked out of the theater, we realized we were all thinking about how to protect each other if a shooter walked in.

I’ve led a privileged life -- I have never experienced a shooting. As a white woman, I’m statistically unlikely to get shot.

But three months after the Aurora shooting, I held my purse to my chest in a movie theater, thinking maybe it could block a bullet if a man walked in with a gun.

The day after the Sandy Hook shooting, I froze up in my school library. I wondered if hiding under the desk would be enough to save me.

A week after the Charleston shooting, I sunk down in my seat at Miller Theatre for a much-anticipated performance of “Voodoo.”

At the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night, I spent an act figuring out the closest exit to lead the friend I had brought through, and then I started feeling guilty for bringing my friend into a “risky” place.

But then again, I got scared sitting on the subway the other day. I got scared at work. I got scared walking down the street.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last three years, it’s that there is no safe space. I’ve learned that anywhere and everywhere can instantly become the scene of a mass shooting. I've learned there's little reason behind what place is next.

I’m not alone in this -- my family and friends have texted me about fear from movie theaters and talked to me about their planned hiding space at the local bodega and casually mentioned worries about unlocked doors at work.

I’m scared because we’ve seen it happen again and again. At a school, at the movies, at a healthcare center, in church.

I’m scared because I have no indication that this is going to stop.

Guns are pretty regularly available across the country. President Obama has made the same, increasingly frustrated statement over and over again, and nothing has changed.

Twenty children and six adults were killed in an elementary school and a ban on assault weapons failed in the Senate. I mean, hell, they couldn’t even pass an amendment requiring background checks for all commercial gun sales.

I’m so tired of having to make the argument that America has a gun problem. Isn’t it obvious? Wasn’t it obvious after Aurora? After Sandy Hook? After Isla Vista? After Charleston? After Colorado Springs? And now, after San Bernardino?

The only thing that’s changing is that I’m getting more and more scared in everyday life.

I’m scared that potential shooters are going to see how many men are successfully pulling off shootings and they’re going to try it out for themselves. I’m scared that they’ll have access to guns, whether it’s through purchasing or borrowing or stealing.

While I’m scared for myself, I’m also scared for the thousands of people who will use guns to commit suicide -- which historically outnumbers the amount of people who die in gun homicides.

I’m scared for the people who will be victims of domestic violence by guns. I’m scared for the people who will be shot for personal vendettas and gang violence.

There are a ton of causes that lead to these injuries and deaths, including mental health, inequality and systemic issues.

But most directly, the cause was guns. And I’m really scared of guns.