Gun Violence: 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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5 Logical Reasons Why Teachers Should Not Be Armed

Politics Aside, This is Not the Solution We Need to End Gun Violence
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As a student, I would not feel any safer having armed teachers. Now I know I cannot speak for every student in the entire planet. However, I can express the logical reasons that conclude the fact that jumping into a impulsive solution to arm teachers is a very bad idea.

1. Where is this money coming from?

Teachers (without the extra costs for firearms and firearm training) get paid a ridiculously low wage for the enormous amount of work that they accomplish. Teachers are paid for their time in the classroom, not the countless hours it takes to actually be a good teacher, which requires time outside of the school day. Are we really expecting them to forgo even more of their time and salary to fund training and weapons?

2. A teacher's job is to teach

When I walk into a classroom, I expect the teacher to instill a sense of knowledge and create a safe environment for me to learn in. This means creating a comfortable environment, allowing creativity and different types of learning. Not the ability to whip out a gun and be locked and loaded for any and all emergencies. I would appreciate my teachers to be focused on their job, teaching.

3.Increased anxiety and stress clouds judgment

Firearms in the workplace increase anxiety, this is a logical conclusion. Knowing that there is a possibility of a deadly weapon in the presence of children and young adults immediately makes me nervous. Teachers are not perfect, they are not meant to be trained in combat situations. The amount of pressure a deadly weapon carries cannot be place among the many responsibilities a teacher has, especially when they are under threat of an attack, especially when mistakes can happen so easily, and especially when we are talking about life and death.

4. Confusion in the act of a shooter is eminent

Chaos. One word cannot describe an active shooter event, but if it could, this would be a really accurate one. There is already so much doubt and fear in these situations, why are we increasing the presence of the object that strikes so much fear and chaos within our society? In the event that a teacher does have to use a firearm, will they know which student is to be feared? Will the police know that this teacher is not, in fact, the shooter who has sparked such a tragedy?

5. Liability and morality

I won't begin to attempt an understanding of legal jargon, but I question the difficulty teachers will have towards shooting their own students, as that has been the trend in past school shootings. What are the ramifications of shooting and killing the attacker? And still, if there is no incident, guns send a very powerful message. I fear that if this is our new reality, we will have yet another power complex to analyze.

Regardless of your political views, we cannot be impulsive about the solution to gun violence. There needs to be an open dialogue with the hopes of creating change rather than to prove a political point. No child should fear for their life in school and no teacher should fear for the day they have to shoot their own student. It's a gamble to fight the possibility of what we fear with the weapons that have caused so much tragedy.


Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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2,044 Mass Shootings Have Followed Sandy Hook, Yet That's Still Not 'Enough' For Us To Take Action

With momentary sadness followed by disgusting ease, we are able to push these tragedies aside faster and faster as they become a foreseen reality.

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On December 14th, 2012, our country was in disbelief as 20 children and 6 adults lives were lost to a gunman who took their lives as well as his own at Sandy Hook Elementary school. On this day, each of us vowed that an event of this demeanor has no place in our world and that we would do everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.

Fast forward 7 years and mass shootings are popping up on the news day after day. As months roll on, it has become easier as a society to normalize these shootings, which is a red flag I never thought possible.

In June 2016, we witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in the United State's history at a nightclub in Orlando, leaving 50 dead on the scene. In between Sandy Hook and this shooting, there were 994 others. 994, let that sink in.

After Orlando, in October 2017, a shooting at a Las Vegas music festival saw 59 dead, becoming the new deadliest shooting in the U.S.

Most recently, a school shooting in Denver has left eight students injured and one 18 years old dead on May 7, 2019. This was preceded by a school shooting in North Carolina only days earlier, where 2 individuals lives were taken and 4 were injured.

As a citizen, it's easier to start distancing yourself from these overwhelmingly sad yet continuous occurrences, telling yourself that "this will be the last one" or that "maybe this will really make the laws change." Yet, no one and no place seems to be safe from these heartbreaking events.

From the most liberal places in California to the reddest southern states and all those in between, there is no pattern to these mass murders. No background or economic status has protected the thousands of innocent people from being taken from us way before their time.

About a month ago, I experienced the scare first hand at my school, the University of Michigan. We were told to go into hiding as police described suspects carrying concealed weapons on campus, with the news that there had been shots fired on the main campus. 4 hours into hiding, we were told that the alert was a false alarm, however, this day showed the disturbing reality of how anyone's life could change in a matter of milliseconds. Saddest of all was the overwhelming amount of times I heard "I knew it would happen here eventually" and "I always thought it would happen on a game day." No student should live in a world where they are expectant of a tragedy like this.

Mass killings of our countries people isn't a political issue. Mass killings of innocent children, teachers, friends, and loved ones should not be a fight between parties. After Sandy Hook, we said enough was enough. Years later, we're still turning on the news to see more lives taken, and the sentiment has been lost.

I've been fortunate enough to not have lost a friend, family member or peer in these 2,043 shootings. As someone who has gone through a false alarm, I can't imagine the reality of having to live on after a freak incident, especially one where you lose a loved one or a fellow community member.

2,044 mass shootings in 7 years, totaling 2,317 deaths and leaving over 8,000 injured. It's time we stand together, put aside our differences and work towards the only thing that should matter: never letting those with these cruel intentions have the opportunity to commit these crimes, and saving innocent lives in the memory of those we have already lost.

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