Opinion: You probably forgot about Sutherland Springs by now


Lucas Misera

Lucas Misera

If you aren’t numb to the gun problems enveloping our country — if you still look up at the television when you hear “shooting” — then you’re well aware of the tragedy that took place in Sutherland Springs Sunday.

Disgruntled 26-year-old Devin Kelley killed 26 churchgoers in the small Texas town. The shooting, per some estimates, claimed the lives of nearly 4 percent of Sutherland Springs’ population.

This shooting, the largest in the history of Texas, comes only weeks after 58 were killed and more than 500 were injured in Las Vegas at a Jason Aldean concert.

If you’re anything like the rest of the population though, you’ve probably stopped thinking about both already.

Go back nearly five years to the shooting at Sandy Hook. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 school children and six others were killed when Adam Lanza walked into the small Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school with an assault rifle.

An event as shocking as the Newtown shootings should’ve drawn public attention for a long period of time. But that’s not what Google Trends, a tool that tracks search popularity by keywords, suggests happened.

Per Google Trends, searches for “Newtown” peaked the day after the shooting and were down 75 percent just four days afterward. It took two days for searches for “Las Vegas” to go down by a similar amount after the Oct. 1 shootings in Nevada.

For the latest shooting in Texas, the same decline can be measured in hours, not days. Searches for “Sutherland Springs” came to a peak at 5 p.m. on Nov. 5.

Just 24 hours later, the small town was searched only 10 percent as often.

To put this all into perspective, search interest in “Covfefe,” the mysterious phrase coined in what was seemingly a mistweet by President Donald Trump, saw a dip around 75 percent in search popularity like the Newtown shootings did within the same four-day time frame.

That’s not to say in terms of sheer search volume that a mindless tweet saw the same amount of interest as Sutherland Springs; in this regard, Google Trends suggests that “Sutherland Springs” was searched nearly 10 times as often as “Covfefe.”

But the point is public interest in national tragedies needs to last longer. With each passing mass shooting, a different story seems to usurp that tragedy with greater rapidity. The state and local elections across the country Tuesday night seemed to have done it this time, and while participating in democracy is certainly newsworthy, it shouldn’t overshadow one of the greatest threats facing this country and its peace of mind: gun violence.

In a worst-case scenario, the general public allows mass shootings to become the norm. On this front, Google Trends might just be a bearer of bad news: Searches for “desensitized” peaked after both the Las Vegas and Texas shootings.

If Google Trends is right in showing that public interest wanes with each senseless massacre, then each of us is doing a disservice to those killed in Sutherland Springs.

And Las Vegas. And Newtown. And Aurora. And Columbine.

Lucas Misera is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected].