The Santa Fe High School Shooting Is A Reminder Of Just How Much We Need To Strengthen Gun Laws

The Santa Fe High School Shooting Is A Reminder Of Just How Much We Need To Strengthen Gun Laws

Gun laws need to be reinforced, and what better time to start than right now?
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The Santa Fe high school shooting was just one of the 300 school shootings that have occurred in the United States since 2013, and it is necessary to recognize the fact that the measures that are being taken to prevent incidents like these simply don’t prove to be enough.

And now, the minds behind the violence have not been pursuing ordinary facilities to terrorize, but have found a new target — schools.

9/11 served as a wake-up call for American citizens to the threat of imminent attacks against the heartland, and what once seemed like the safest and most prosperous country in the world took a new, vulnerable light in the eyes of foreigners and Americans themselves. Even with the ample amount of time that has been granted to the American government to stop shootings and other acts of mass violence, the numbers of these horrific acts have not been going down but instead have been following an upward trajectory.

On May 18, students at the Santa Fe high school scrambled for safety subsequent to the sound of gun shots echoing through the hallways. 10 were found to be wounded and 10 were killed; of them a Pakistani foreign exchange student and a substitute teacher. As authorities searched campus to find more evidence of the shooting after its conclusion, more explosive devices were found to exist.

17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the identified shooter, was later detained by authorities on accords of capital murder and aggravated assault of a public servant. He was a typically quiet student, and some have reported to say that he was in fact helpful. He admits to killing those he didn’t like in particular and wanted to commit suicide following the shooting.

But what is most heartbreaking of all is that incidents like these are common now.

Hearing about another school shooting is plain to all of us, because on average one takes place every week. It is simply not enough to recognize patterns of shooters such as loneliness or exclusion or strengthen school safety measures in order to prevent shootings. To effectively eradicate them, we must recognize the underlying issue that is the root cause of the violence: guns.

Pagourtzis allegedly used his father’s gun and revolver to carry out the shooting, a feat he would not have been able to so easily accomplish without the use of a gun.

First, take note of the facts. America is home to about 300 million guns, more than any other country. Its gun death rates top those of almost every country — on the other end of the spectrum, Japan has less than 1 gun per 100 people and has fewer than 10 gun deaths a year for the entire nation.

Nobody is saying that guns should be banned completely — that would go against everything our country stands for, including raw freedom. Instead, stronger gun control needs to be implemented, because the fact stands that more guns equals more deaths. If guns were out of the equation, a downfall in the amount of deaths due to gun violence would definitely be seen as well. This approach would include lengthy background checks, a ban to those under 21 from buying a gun, safe storage, tighter enforcement of the law on straw purchases and ammunition checks.

While lax gun laws make it effortless for good guys to get guns, they also make it strikingly simple for bad guys to get guns.

In the “wise words” of President Trump, mass shootings have been “going on too long in our country.” So in my words, president, what exactly are you doing to stop this phenomenon?

President Trump, you receive $30 million dollars from the NRA as your personal form of hush money, but you choose to ignore the fact that disbanding the NRA will cause your country to prosper greater than ever before. So, instead of listening to an organization that will rip your country apart, listen to Paul Ryan, a member of your own party who wants to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and listen to the millions of people that want you to take action against guns and do something; anything to prevent gun violence.

As teachers, parents and peers of these shooters, let's do our part to be aware of the warning signs of someone inclined to gun violence.


Cover Image Credit: Jamal Smith / Twitter

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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You're Under Arrest

Do detained illegal immigrants have the right to legal representation?

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"Ewan O'Hara, you're under arrest." I watched, shocked, as my favorite T.V. detective, Juliet O'Hara from the crime comedy "Psych," arrested her older brother. "You have the right to an attorney," Juliet continued, "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you." After informing her brother of his Miranda rights, Juliet loaded Ewan into a police cruiser.

Miranda rights are the rights an arrested suspect has. These rights are mentioned in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and include anything you say will be used against you in court, the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney even if you can't afford one. Police officers are required to inform people of their Miranda rights when arrested.

But what about when illegal immigrants are arrested? Do Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers inform illegal immigrants of their Miranda rights? Do illegal immigrants even have the right to an attorney?

Yes and no. Illegal immigrants must be able to provide and pay for an attorney. However, if they can't afford one, the government doesn't give one to them. Since they are not U.S. citizens, they are not granted the same rights as U.S. citizens (including the right to an attorney). It is not uncommon for illegal immigrants to represent themselves at their court proceedings due to a lack of access to legal representation.

I remember when my mother first brought this issue to my attention. She was outraged on the behalf of illegal immigrants everywhere and blamed Obama and Trump for furthering a culture of fear. However, while the policies of the president plays a role, it is not the driving force behind why illegal immigrants don't always have access to an attorney.

The root of this issue is a result of affordability and logistic problems. Often, illegal immigrants cannot afford an attorney since they are not working while in the detention center. To help solve this problem, pro bono attorneys help represent illegal immigrants. Pro bono attorneys are lawyers who give legal services for free to people in need. Even with pro bono attorneys, who represent about half of all immigration detainee cases, illegal immigrants still face adversity.

Many immigrant detention centers are far from the cities where immigration attorneys work. As a result, the immigration attorneys who decide to take on the cases of illegal immigrants have to travel long distances to meet with them. While this may not be seen as a catastrophic problem, once at the detention center immigration attorneys must obtain permission from the government to enter the building. Once inside, they must wait for a long time before even seeing their client. While these problems may seem like small obstacles, they act as a deterrent for immigration attorneys who would otherwise be willing to represent illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants should not defend themselves alone. The United States was built on the ideas of equality and justice. What kind of country are we if we can't adhere to the ideas we were built upon? At their hearings, illegal immigrants sit before a judge and an opposing attorney, both who have studied the law for years. However, even with an attorney to represent them, there is no guarantee that illegal immigrants will stay in the U.S. after their hearing.

Despite this, what a great thing it would be for the United States to say that we have lived up to the ideas that our country was founded upon. What a great thing it would be for the citizens of the U.S. to say that our country enforced the law while ensuring that basic rights are guaranteed to everyone.

Cover Image Credit:

https://pixabay.com/en/defense-attorney-defense-lawyer-840062/

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