Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ending Gun Violence

It’s happened again. Nine people in Roseburg Oregon Community College were killed and another nine injured this past Thursday by 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, who had enrolled in the college but did not attend the class where the shooting occurred. Of the nine who died, their ages ranged from 18 to 67 (faculty member). Like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and many others, we kiss our children good-bye in the morning and never in our wildest imagination think that we’ll never see them again alive.

I know the feeling. I had just spoken to my daughter on Wednesday, March 2, 1994, early in the day before going to teach at my high school, and we were going to continue our conversation later that day when I returned home. But she never got home that day after she and her husband picked up their new car and were going out to dinner to celebrate. She was killed by an impaired driver who failed to see a stop sign in Beverly Hills, CA. No matter the circumstance, too many people are dying tragically because of the actions of others, whether a car crash or gun violence.

There were heroes at Umpqua Community College, like one man who blocked a classroom door and took several shots, but survived. Others who admitted to being Christians were immediately shot in the head. Still others were shot in the leg or elsewhere. One young student was shot in the back and pretended to be dead so the shooter wouldn’t shot her again; he thought she was dead. These are just a few of the stories surrounding the event.

Mercer had attended a school for emotionally troubled kids, but was never ruled mentally unfit, so was able to buy guns…the law in Oregon. Mercer was armed with six guns, body armor and rounds of ammunition. At his apartment were seven more guns and additional ammunition. He left a chilling message found at the scene of the shooting saying that the whole world was against him, that he had no life and no girlfriend. Neighbors where he lived thought he acted strange most of the time, that he was a loner and probably depressed. On social media he showed an interest in other mass shootings and a fascination with the military and the IRA. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, but was kicked out one month later.

The Roseburg, Oregon sheriff will not say his name, thinking that those who do, will only glorify his horrific actions and eventually this will only serve to inspire other shooters.

STATS: One person is killed with a firearm every 16 minutes in the U.S. Every day 92 are killed with firearms including suicides. A total of 153,144 have been killed by gun violence since 2001 compared to 3,046 in terrorist attacks (the majority on 9/11). This was the 4th shooting on a U.S. college campus since August.

Americans agree the violence must end, but are bitterly divided on how to stop it. Republicans say that new laws aren’t always the solution. Gun control is not the answer, according to many. Less than one-half of the population support more control; however, 93% want background checks.

President Obama says he is frustrated and fed up with gun violence. He believes nothing will change until the politics changes and the behavior of elected officials changes. He is going to continue to talk about this. He said the failure to pass gun legislation is the biggest frustration of his presidency.

How can others help to end gun violence? Professionals say to be aware of those around you. Notice changes in behavior and get more involved in alerting teachers, counselors, professionals and even the authorities. Talk to local politicians and see if there is something you or they can do and if a solution is possible.

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