Gun Violence: a New Norm in the U.S.

Written by Zoe Seiler
Photos by Jayde Vogeler

Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs. San Bernardino. Orlando. Sandy Hook.  Gun violence and mass shootings have become a part of the news cycle this year. This issue hits too close to home for Simpson students leaving them wondering why how someone could be so violent toward another human being.

High School Shooting
Dec. 12, 2013 began as another normal day for freshman Madi Strecker at Arapahoe High School in Denver, Colorado. She went to school around the same time as usual. She was preparing for finals by studying and meeting with teachers.

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Freshman Madi Strecker went to high school like any other normal day, but the whole school was in shock of the events that carried out that afternoon.

Strecker sat in the cafeteria during fifth period waiting to meet with a teacher in the library, 30 feet from the cafeteria. On her way to the library, she was quickly pulled into the counseling office when gunshots started firing from the library.

Arapahoe High School senior Karl Pierson brought a “bandolier of ammunition strapped to his chest. He carried a machete, three Molotov cocktails and the pump-action shotgun that authorities said he bought days before to avenge a grudge he had against his debate coach,” a Denver Post article said.

At 12:30 p.m. Pierson entered the school searching for the debate coach. He fired his shotgun down a hallway, striking and killing another student. He fired a total of five times and ignited a Molotov cocktail that set three bookshelves on fire in the library, according to the Denver Post.

Strecker sat in the counseling office for about an hour and half before being evacuated from the school.

“I was scared shitless to say the least,” Strecker said. “It was not a comfortable feeling.”

The school was placed on lockdown while authorities investigated the situation. At Arapahoe High School, students go into a room away from windows and sit on the floor. The lights are turned off and doors and windows are locked. A shade is pulled over the door, Strecker said.

“When you’re in lockdown, your security guards are supposed to check the doors, so when our door got checked it almost felt like someone was trying to get in, which didn’t help anything,” Strecker said.

Luckily, students were safely evacuated and Strecker reunited with her family.

Since the shooting happened the week before finals, the school cancelled finals and began winter break earlier than scheduled. Students returned the second or third week of January, Strecker said.

“I was nervous. I hadn’t been in the school since that day,” Strecker said. “I would drive by it and it would give me anxiety.”

 

Unfair Blame
When a mass shooting happens, some first thoughts are “It was a terrorist attack, the shooter was connected to ISIS”. In some instances that has been the case, like in San Bernardino, California. But not every shooting has that religious connection.

Senior Andrea Casaretto, who practices Islam, fears shooters are Muslim when she hears about a shooting and feels blamed for one person’s actions.

“To me, it’s a violation of our religious principles, to kill innocent people,” Casaretto said. “Every other Muslim gets worried about who will retaliate against [them] or is someone going to beat up [their] kid while they’re at school. We all get blamed for that even though we don’t have anything to do with it. It’s not fair.”

Guns can be used for practical reasons, such as protection or hunting, but should not be used to harm others. Gun control is a complex issue because of the gun culture in the United States.

“I feel like if we didn’t have such a strong gun culture people wouldn’t have access to so many illegal weapons,” Casaretto said.

Stricter guns laws would be a step in the right direction, Casaretto said, but all shootings cannot be prevented with more screening or stricter access to guns.

“If we had the psychological examination in place before a person can buy a gun, that might catch some of that stuff, but mental health can change instantly,” Casaretto said.

Gun owners have their reasons for having guns. Non-owners have their reasons for not having a gun. Both sides of the argument seem to simplify the argument too much.

“One side says ‘well, I’m a free person I can buy this gun if I want it’, while the other side says ‘I’m a free person, I want to live.’ Both sides don’t try to see the other side,” Casaretto said.

 

Losing a Friend
Sophomore Monica Dale joined the shooting team at Wilmot Union High School in Burlington, Wisconsin. This is where she met her friend Darin, a fun-loving kid who enjoyed skeet shooting.

“He was honestly one of the funniest kids I have ever met in my entire life,” Dale said. “He was one of those people that tried to act tough and cool, but was super funny underneath. He would always be laughing around and joking with us.”

Over the summer, Darin unexpectedly took his own life when he shot himself. He didn’t leave a note. There was no indication that this wouldhappen.

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Hearing the news about her friend committing suicide left sophomore Monica Dale questioning gun safety.

It was hard for her to believe she had lost a good friend. Her mom sat her down after work one day and told her the news.

“I was like ‘Mom, I just saw him two days ago and he was smiling,’” Dale said. “He was getting the same thing he always did, which was Cinnamon Melts and a Big Mac. He was just him.”

It was hard for Dale to understand what happened. It didn’t hit her until she attended Darin’s funeral.

“I was like ‘Oh my god. This is real.’ I couldn’t believe it,” Dale said.

After the funeral, shooting practice became more emotional for Dale. When she started practicing for the season skeet practice was difficult, because that was Darin’s favorite discipline, Dale said.

She remembered the day Darin shot his first 25 in skeet and the team did a dance with him to celebrate. She said the day she shot a 24 at practice in October she couldn’t help but think about Darin and that dance.

“The first competition that I shot skeet at was really, really hard because I just thought of him the entire time. He loved it,” Dale said, with tears in her eyes. “Obviously it’s still kind of hard. He was younger than me. It blows my mind.”

 

From Another Country
In 1996, a lone gunman in Tasmania killed 20 people with 29 bullets in 90 seconds. A final toll of 35 people dead and 18 seriously wounded by firing a military-style automatic rifle, according to CNN.

Twelve days after the shooting, former Prime Minister John Howard called for a nationwide gun law reform. All states and territories banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, tightened gun ownership licensing and the remaining firearms were registered to uniform national standards.

Australia collected more than a million guns with federally funded gun buybacks by a one-off tax on all Australians. All the guns were destroyed. The Australian government banned imports of new automatic and semiautomatic weapons, according to CNN. Australia hasn’t seen a mass shooting since 1996.

Some Australians seem to fear the United States’ guns laws because it easier to get a gun in the U.S. and more people own them.

Senior Laura Haddad, an international student from Australia, had concerns about coming to the U.S. at first due to the gun laws.

“Before I came here, I was telling people I was coming to the U.S. and they were just like ‘are you sure you want to go there because they have so many guns and there’s college shootings and church shootings,’” Haddad said.

That stereotype has not lived up to the expectations Haddad and friends had initially. She said it did on a national level, but not in Iowa.

On a national level, mass shootings have frequently been in the news this year. Other countries notice this increase of violence.

“It’s just overall, from an Australian perspective, we are just concerned about why there hasn’t been stricter gun laws,” Haddad said. “How many people does it have to take? How many mass shootings have to happen?”

 

Gun Control Opinions
The Las Vegas shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Stephen Paddock, sitting in his room at the Mandalay Bay, opened fire at a country music concert down below. Paddock killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds.

Mass shootings cause fear and panic among the public. Politicians address shootings with the usual rhetoric about praying for the victims and families and solving the problem, yet nothing has been done.

Gun control is a divisive, complicated issue with many arguments. Some advocate for stricter gun laws, while others argue for more expansive gun laws.

“I’m not going to tell anyone not to buy a gun because the government says they can,” Strecker said. “I think age restrictions and the availability of guns aid in a lot of mass shootings and deaths. There should be some kind of restriction, but you can’t restrict everything. Someone is bound to get or make something that can cause mass destruction.”

Gun control is a nationwide issue that needs to be addressed. Junior Pierce Carey is a strong advocate for stricter gun laws. He said the system right now is unsustainable and politicians need to work together to fix the problem instead of only talking about it after every mass shooting. Carey also suggested looking at other country’s response to gun violence or mass shootings. Most responses have been stricter gun laws.

“We have to look to what our values are and the value of safety within our nation,” Carey said. “Based on the facts that we have from nations across the world, I believe that stricter gun laws is the way to go.”

Dale, a captain of the Simpson shooting sports club, is saddened and frustrated when mass shootings happen.

“It really frustrates me when people do that sort of thing, like shoot up a church, or go to concerts and just shoot as many people as possible,” Dale said.  “I can’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense to me why they would do that to themselves, especially when you hear in some cases they do shoot up massive crowds but then they kill themselves.”

In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, Dale was surprised by the amount of ammunition the shooter had. He had more ammunition and guns than the shooting team travels with Dale said.

When it comes to Dale’s beloved sport, she thinks about what mass shootings portray for it. The perception of shooting as a sport can become complex with the negativity around guns.

“I don’t understand just randomly shooting people. It makes me question my sport, because it is heavily revolving around shotguns,” Dale said. “When I meet new people, it makes me very hesitant to tell them I am on the shotgun team. I am proud of what I do. I’m just very hesitant because I don’t know how they’re going to react, just because of all the negative public things that are done.”

Dale believes gun control is necessary to prevent those with severe mental illnesses or criminals from owning a gun. She also thinks gun control can be taken too far.

“It comes to a point where it’s not preventing people from getting them or who shouldn’t have them, but it’s just making it really, really difficult on the people who have them [guns], who are allowed to have them to get them. But I do believe it is necessary,” Dale said.

The United States makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, but has 31 percent of all global mass shooters, according to CNN. Gun violence has become an increasing problem with many mass shootings this year and no change in gun laws.

“I think people’s right to life is more important than the supposed right to having a gun,” Casaretto said.

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