Gun Violence Is The Real National Emergency

Gun Violence Is The Real National Emergency

A mass shooting in Aurora, IL reminds us that gun violence is still an incredibly prominent emergency in our nation.

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February 15 saw a number of horrific events in the U.S., all just one year and one day after the Parkland Shooting that saw seventeen deaths, and eleven years and one day since the shooting at Northern Illinois University that saw six deaths, including the shooter.

At 1:24 p.m. on Friday, the Aurora, IL, police department began to receive calls about an active shooter at Henry Pratt Company. Officers arrived on the scene in four minutes, quickly deciding to activate Aurora's special response team. Within two minutes of being on site, the dispatchers received the first report of an officer being shot. In the next minute, dispatchers got word of four victims on one floor, and then a fifth on another floor. The following three minutes saw more gunfire and another two police officers wounded, leading to the decision to return fire. For 17 minutes, the wounded officers were evacuated from the scene, and a separate operation took place to evacuate employees from the warehouse. Police searched the 29,000 sq. ft. warehouse for over an hour without contact with the gunman. At 2:58 p.m., the officers located the gunman near the back of the building. The gunman opened fire at the officers and was shot and killed at 2:59 p.m. in an exchange of gunfire.

Eight SWAT teams responded to the incident, and 25 to 35 agencies and police departments sent resources in response to the scene. There were anywhere between 200 to 300 police officers, agents, and other personnel in the vicinity.

The gunman was Gary Martin, who had been working for Henry Pratt Co. for 15 years. He had been called into a meeting that day, where he was told that he would be fired. After the meeting, he took out his pistol and began shooting people. He kept firing as he left the meeting room and went into the warehouse.

Martin had a felony conviction in Mississippi in 1995. In January 2015, then living in Aurora, he was issued a firearm owner's identification card, and in March 2014, he took possession of a .40 caliber handgun. He had passed his background check, and it wasn't until he applied for a conceal-carry permit in the same month that his fingerprints flagged him for the 1995 conviction. After officials discovered the felony, the Illinois State Police revoked his FOID card and state police sent him a letter telling him to relinquish the weapon to police, however, it is unknown if law enforcement ever followed up with him.

Five police officers were wounded in the shooting, a sixth suffered a knee injury, and there was one surviving victim. Five victims were confirmed dead:

Vincente Juarez from Oswego, IL, a stockroom attendant who had been with the company since 2006.

Josh Pinkard, also from Oswego, was the plant manager who had also joined the company 13 years ago in Alabama, only moving to Aurora last spring.

Russell Beyer from Yorkville, IL, a mold operator who had worked for Henry Pratt for more than 20 years.

Clayton Parks of Elgin, IL, was the human resources manager of the company, and an alumnus of Northern Illinois University's class of 2014, who joined Henry Pratt in 2018.

Trevor Wehner, a senior at Northern Illinois University set to graduate in May, was a human resource intern from Sheridan, IL. Friday was his first day at Henry Pratt.

Imagine, for a minute, going to your first day at work as an intern, only for it to be your last.

Imagine going into the place that you have worked at for over 20 years, with no reason to suspect that it'd be your last.

There were only nine people in the building where the shooting took place.

That same night in San Francisco, there was an active shooting scare during a performance of "Hamilton."

San Francisco police officer Joseph Tomlinson told USA TODAY that a woman suffered a medical emergency during a scene where Alexander Hamilton is shot on stage, which sparked mass panic among the audience, believing that there was an active shooter. The audience began to self-evacuate, and when an Automated External Defibrillator was pulled, an alarm was triggered, causing more panic among the audience.

Four people were injured, including the woman who suffered a heart attack--two suffered from minor injuries, and one has a broken leg.

This was a false alarm. However, the terror and the panic of the audience and cast was real.

Meanwhile, on Friday, President Trump was leaving the White House in the afternoon when reporters shouted questions regarding the still-developing shooting in Aurora. To my dismay, he waved them off and ignored them. This recent mass shooting took place thirty minutes from where I grew up, thirty minutes from where my mom works and where some of my friends still go to high school. I'm three and a half hours away from my family and friends back home, and had that shooter fled, they would've been in more danger. While all of this is unfolding, all we get from the president is absolutely nothing. Because that's reassuring. I'd understand had he not been briefed on the situation yet, but he could still say something to that extent to reassure those who are impacted by the situation. Illinois senators, Illinois's Lt. Gov., and former Rep. Gabby Giffords all made a comment on the situation before the president did. And when he finally made a comment about it, it was on Twitter with a generic statement.

His condolences come two hours after the shooter was apprehended. I know the President is a busy man, but he was briefed about the situation and ignored it when it was going on. It took two hours to get an acknowledgment, and in total it's three generic sentences that any person could have tweeted. He practically brushed off a mass shooting. If that doesn't tell you how normalized it has become, I don't know what will.

And here's the kicker: Friday morning, Trump declared a national emergency because Congress wouldn't fully fund his wall. Not only that, but he also stated that he "didn't need to do this." He declared a national emergency over something that he claims he could build "over a long period of time" just because he'd "rather do it much faster," and then, a couple hours later, a mass shooting takes place in the country, killing five innocent people, and evidently it's no big deal. He will spend hours upon hours defending his case to declare a national emergency, yet he will not take more than a minute to type out a generic statement about an actual crisis plaguing the nation.

And that, right there, is why this continues to happen in our country. It is so sickening, all of this: how often it happens, how commonplace it is, how numb we've all grown to it, how some people rather choose to ignore it.

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10 Deadliest School Shootings in U.S. History

These are ten of the most savage attacks on American innocence.
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School shootings in America trace back as early as the Settlers and Indians .

Over the years, attacks on schools have gotten progressively more brutal, senseless and deadly. Motives behind such occurrences are often blamed on social cliques and bullying or the perpetrators often suffer from mental illnesses or addiction.

Here are the 10 deadliest school shootings in American history:

10. West Nickel Mines Shooting

On October 2, 2006, milk-tank truck driver Charles Carl Roberts opened fire on a small Amish schoolhouse in Bart Township, Pennsylvania. Prior to going to the school, Roberts left a suicide note at home for his wife and children.

Roberts entered the one-room schoolhouse and ordered all the boys to leave, as well as one pregnant woman and three parents with infants. He ordered the remaining ten girls against the wall and held them hostage.

Sisters Mariah and Barbara Fisher, ages 13 and 11, courageously asked to be shot first in exchange for the lives of the other young girls; some were as young as six years old. Roberts killed Mariah and wounded Barbara. In addition, he shot eight out of the 10 girls, killing five of them.

9. Oikos University Shooting

43-year-old One L. Goh committed Oakland, California's deadliest mass killing on April 2, 2012, at the Korean Christian college Oikos University. Witnesses testify Goh stood up in his nursing class and ordered everyone against the wall at gun point.

One student recalls him yelling, "Get in line..I'm going to kill you all!" before firing. He killed seven people and wounded three others.

8. California State Fullerton Massacre

Custodian Edward Charles Allaway was reported as going "postal" on July 12, 1976 at California State University in Fullerton, California. The 37-year-old employee of the institute had a history of violence and mental illness, and was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

He was found insane by the judge of his trial for the murders. He called the police after killing seven people and wounding two others, and turned himself in. His motives behind the mass murder included him believing the university library was screening pornographic movies his wife was forced to appear in.

He is currently receiving medical treatment for his condition at the Patton State Hospital.

7. Red Lake Shootings

The Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota will never quite be the same after events which occurred at the senior high school on March 21, 2005.

16-year-old Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather (a tribal police officer) and his girlfriend. He then robbed his grandfather of police weapons and bullet proof vest, before ultimately driving to Red Lake Senior High School where he killed seven people and wounded five others.

Weise took a total of 10 lives that day, including himself. He committed suicide in a classroom after exchanging fire with police.

Witnesses reported Weise smiled while shooting his victims and questioned multiple students about their faith before firing.

6. Umpqua Community College Shooting

On October 1, 2015, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer committed the deadliest mass shooting in Oregon history. He killed nine people and injured seven others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

He spared one person in the classroom he opened fire in, only to deliver a message to the police for him. Mercer was described as "hate filled" by those who knew him. In addition, he identified himself as a White Supremacist, anti religious and suffered from long term mental health issues.

Some theories behind the mass shooting were Mercer falling below a C average, putting him at risk for suspension, as well as him not being able to pay the tuition bill due.

He ultimately committed suicide after the attack.

5. Enoch Brown School Massacre

The Enoch Brown School Massacre is one of the first documented school shootings in U.S. history. On July 26, 1794, four Lenape Indians entered a Settler's schoolhouse in Delaware where they massacred school master Enoch Brown and nine children; they were shot and scalped.

Two children survived the attack and four others were kidnapped and taken as prisoners. This event is considered one of the most notorious incidents of the Pontiac War.

4. Columbine High School Massacre

High school seniors Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, may have not committed the deadliest school shooting in the U.S., but their killing spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado is considered one of the most infamous attacks in history.

It sparked numerous debates, including gun control, anti-depressant drugs and the influence social cliques, violent video games and bullying have on the mental health of high school students.

Harris and Klebold spent countless hours preparing for the events on April 20, 1999, which were documented in their "Basement Tapes." The tapes contained footage of the two boys having target practice with illegally obtained firearms, as well as a suicide message and apology to their parents.

Their ultimate goal was to be responsible for more victims than the Oklahoma City bombing, an event the boys idolized. The morning of the shootings, Harris and Klebold encountered one of their few friends Brooks Brown in the school parking lot.

Brown was one of the few students the shooters considered a friend; they told him to leave campus immediately because "something bad was about to happen."

Reports claim the boys targeted jocks, taunted people for their belief in Christianity and made jokes with each other while they killed their peers. Harris and Klebold took the lives of 13 people and injured 24.

They committed suicide in the library together.

3. UT Tower Shooting

On August 1, 1966, former Marine sharp-shooter Charles Whitman unleashed havoc on the campus of University of Texas in Austin, Texas.

Whitman positioned himself on the observation deck at the very top of the U.T. Tower; it was the perfect place for a sniper to have his pick of targets, considering you could see the entire campus from his vantage point.

He killed 14 people and wounded 31 others. Prior to his attack on campus, Whitman killed his wife and mother.

Post autopsy, it was theorized that Whitman's behavior might have been caused by a tumor found in his brain. Doctors and psychologists attribute the tumor to his impulsive, irrational behavior and his lack of a conscience.

This theory was supported by records of Whitman seeking professional help prior to the shooting for "overwhelming, violent impulses" he felt he couldn't control.

2. Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting

20-year-old Adam Peter Lanza is responsible for arguably the most senseless and brutal attack on a school in U.S. history.

On December 14, 2012 Lanza shook the town of Newtown, Connecticut when he attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza killed his mother, before entering the school where he killed 26 people and inured two others; the majority of his victims were children aging from five to 10 years old.

He committed suicide upon completion of the attack. This shooting in particular confused both the media and authorities, because Lanza never offered a motive or reasoning behind the murder of his mother nor the horrendous mass slaying of innocent children.

1. Virginia Tech Massacre


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia came under attack on April 16, 2007. Senior student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 17 more in two attacks – one in a co-ed dormitory, the other in the Engineering, Science and Mechanics building.

He is noted as committing the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history.

Cho was previously diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder; among the tapes he personally mailed to NBC news, Cho expressed his hatred for the wealthy, compared himself to Jesus Christ and explained that he was forced to commit the mass shooting due to voices in his head.

Virginia Tech has held the number one spot as deadliest school shooting for five years.

Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu was a professor in the Engineering, Science and Mechanics department at the school, who was famously remembered for using his body as a barricade against the door during the attack; Librescu was killed during the attack but managed to hold the door closed long enough for all of his students to escape out the window.

Cho ultimately committed suicide following the shooting.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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The Active Shooter Threat At The University of Michigan May Have Been Unfounded, But The Reality Of The Threat Is NOT

As much as the police and the university want to tell us we're "safe," I don't feel safe, not really.

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This Saturday, March 16th, 2019, there was an active shooter threat here at the University of Michigan. And although the threat has been cleared, and it turned out to be a misunderstanding, it was still a jarring day for many.

This weekend was filled with early St. Patrick's Day parties and get-togethers, a very active campus of vulnerable students. It was a weekend of celebration before we got the announcement of the threat. And while I was not in the center of it, I was still shocked and scared. My day turned from one of average thoughts and actions, into one of worry and fear.

I was in my apartment off-campus that day, hanging out and not thinking about much. I had left my phone in the living room and went into my bedroom for a few minutes when I heard a couple of text notifications. I thought nothing of them. I got another, and still ignored it. Then I got a call, which actually made me get up to check. It was my sister, so of course, I answered.

I was a bit confused as to why she'd call me since we usually just message each other on a group chat, but I answered lightheartedly. She didn't even say "hi," only "where are you?" I was even more confused now and she had to repeat herself. She was only satisfied when I told her I was just at home.

Then she told me the news I'd hoped I'd never hear, "There's a shooter on campus, stay inside and lock your doors."

While the threat and situation have been cleared now, what she told me then was the only truth I knew at that moment. In that moment, and for a while afterward, I thought there was a shooter on my campus, in the very building in which I've taken the majority of my classes during my four years in college. I thought people's lives were at stake and that, even though I wasn't directly there, that my life was at stake too.

I didn't tell her that, and I tried not to let myself think it either. I couldn't process what she had told me, and to be honest, I still can't. As much as the police and the university want to tell us we're "safe," I don't feel safe, not really.

As dark as this may be, there were times when I had been sitting in class and could imagine the ease in which a shooter could come in. I think this has become an underlying nightmare in every student's mind: my school isn't safe.

But, it's not just a fear for students. Just last semester in class, my professor froze at a loud noise out in the hall and even jumped slightly when a student walked in late a minute later. That image almost makes you want to laugh until you realize that her reaction is due to a legitimate threat to our country.

This threat and fear are constant in everyday life now, and it doesn't end in schools.

The amount of violence, most notably gun violence, today surrounds us and has given the nation a uniform of PTSD. It is felt when a professor jumps at an opening door, when you have to suppress road rage in case another driver has a gun, and when the popping of balloons and screaming sets off an active shooter threat.

Yes, this threat turned out to be "unfounded," but the truth is that it could easily have been our reality.

After I hung up with my sister, exchanging purposeful "I love you"s, I checked every news and media outlet I could. What I found was breaking coverage, university community pages coming together, and concurrent emails from the university. Those emails began with, "Active shooter in Mason Hall. Run, hide, fight." And despite the following messages being assurances that there was not an active shooter, I don't think the words "run, hide, fight," will leave my memory anytime soon.

I've felt all of this while off-campus, and I can't imagine what it felt like for those who were in the building, and especially those who were just outside of the building during a vigil for the victims of the New Zealand attack.

While my hands were shaking in my safe and locked apartment, they were running to safety. While I tried to stop myself from thinking about what might be happening in Mason Hall, they were scared for their lives.

In those moments, the threat was real, and that's what matters to everyone affected. And to anyone who refuses to acknowledge that, you're part of the problem. The problem that continuously covers up what could have happened with what "actually" happened.

This campus and this community are so lucky to have each other's' support, and more importantly, our lives. We might not have had an active shooter, but others have. To not recognize the reality of unnecessary deaths, and the real possibility of history repeating itself is purposeful ignorance.

To my fellow Wolverines, I'm glad you are safe and alive. The support you've shown to each other is inspiring and makes me proud of this university.

To those who have known the reality of our threat, I'm so sorry. You are so strong and deserve the utmost respect. There is nothing you could have done to deserve what happened, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

To those reading this, be mindful of the different ways people process difficult events like these. Do not make light of someone's reactions or experiences. Instead, help make people feel heard, and support healing and community to help combat the hatred that fuels this fear.

Even as I wrote this, my throat choked up and emotions flooded through me. This threat was a surreal moment that highlighted one of my deepest fears. We live in a culture where these threats and the precautions around them are real. Where actions and thoughts are dictated by the threat of unnecessary violence and hatred.

It is nothing new to say that we need to fix this, but we need to come together to do so. There are people in this world who do terrible things and we need to figure out why, so we can help them, so we can stop them.

I hope this threat and scare can be turned into an event of growth and understanding, that will help open up the conversation about the violence in this country, and around the world. We need to spread more universal love and understanding and stop promoting hate. It sounds simple, but it's true. And it will take hard work.

I thank God that this time a university and community was spared, but that doesn't stop the reality of hatred in the world. That will require much more work, determination, and purposeful actions of universal understanding. That requires communication and a deeper look not just into how, but why, these threats remain.

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