Concert attendees struggle to escape the stressful situation. (Photo credits: The AP)

Panic at Global Citizen Festival Shows Necessity of Gun Reform

It is disturbingly representative of modern American culture that such a minor problem spiraled out of control so quickly and powerfully. 

November 7, 2018

America is known for many of its odd cultural norms. Prescription drug advertisements. Treating pets like children. White bread. Black Friday. Obesity. And, apparently, a deeply ingrained fear of mass shootings that causes calm people at safe concerts to suddenly go berserk at a nonexistent threat.

I was waiting for Janet Jackson to come on stage at this year’s Global Citizen Festival (held on Central Park’s Great Lawn) when the crowd in front of me suddenly erupted into unexplained chaos. In seconds, sixty thousand people were sprinting for their lives in the darkness, screaming, tripping over tree roots and fallen tents, trampling small children, doing literally anything they could to get out of Central Park. I hadn’t heard any gunshots, but like everyone around me, I had immediately–naturally–assumed that I was within a few hundred yards of an active shooter.

My friend and I sprinted through the park, dodging barriers and jumping over fences while desperately reloading Twitter to see if anyone knew about what had happened. As we stumbled through the crowd, it crossed my mind that this scene of mass panic might be the last thing I ever saw, that I was going to be either a survivor or a victim of Global Citizen 2018. At least I’d gotten to see Cardi B. 

Physically unharmed but emotionally shaken, we eventually made it to the street. It soon became clear, through social media reports and parental phone calls, that there had never been a real threat. Someone had stepped on a empty water bottle, people mistook the sound for a gunshot, and the confusion from that small mishap turned into a panic that spread like wildfire through the densely packed crowd of Americans who were all too familiar with the threat of mass shootings at concerts. 

It is disturbingly representative of modern American culture that such a minor problem spiraled out of control so quickly and powerfully. I am incredibly lucky that there was never any real danger at the festival, but what I witnessed  will stay with me as a reminder of one of the worst problems in this country. My experience at Global Citizen speaks to a much larger cultural trend: just like white bread and Black Friday and obesity, mass shootings have become an American expectation. A default. They are something we hope to avoid, yet recognize as a definite possibility because of our country’s insufficient regulation of assault rifles. 

Lawmakers must take meaningful action now to restrict access to assault rifles, and it is the duty of all Americans to fight against the belief that the right to own an automatic weapon is more important than innocent victims’ lives.

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