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Mass shootings uprise at alarming rate
February 27, 2023
Mass shootings are popping up everywhere in America so often, it is hard to even keep track. With new shootings daily, different motives and locations, but similar guns, it makes it hard to understand what is happening and when. The when, where, and whos of these stories are all so complicated and of such a great volume it is hard to even tell when a shooting has happened. Mass shootings keep occurring at an alarming rate, yet nothing ends up being done to prevent them.
In 2022 alone, there were around 600 mass shootings in just the U.S. That is almost two mass shootings every day this year. The worst part is, that is only mass shootings and does not account for other gun related killings. While there is no official way to say what constitutes a mass shooting, sources such as CNN and the Gun Violence Archive consider a mass shooting one where four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter. The fact that so many shootings continue without anything major being done to prevent it is a shame.
“It goes down to the fact that the people in power are not doing enough to try and solve this,” junior Chloe Carlson said.
Over 50 school shootings in which students have been killed or injured in 2022. There have been more than 50 school shootings last year, which is hard to believe. There have been over 300 shootings incidents on school or campus grounds in 2022. 2022, has been the most dangerous year for teens and under in 40 years. School shootings are not the only way children experience gun violence, a 14-year-old girl was shot watching fireworks outside of her home in St. Louis less than an hour after the new year, and became the first child shot in the U.S. in 2023. There have been more than 6,000 children killed or injured by gun violence in 2023 according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“Why would a teenager need a gun? A lot of school shooters are just teenagers with automatic weapons,” Carlson said.
Maybe you heard about the mass shooting in L.A. in January, or maybe the Uvalde school shooting was the last one you heard about. Shootings today are very desensitized, because they happen so frequently. If shootings are occurring daily, and people are getting used to hearing headlines about many people dying in clubs and schools then why would the news cover it?
Not long ago the news of a shooting with multiple dead was everywhere, and everyone was talking about it or sending their thoughts and prayers. Not anymore, there are so many shootings most do not even get news coverage. Nine children were shot at a gas station in Georgia, and yet no one hears about it. News media does not cover shootings like they used to, which makes sense because no one is interested in it anymore. It’s so normal that news of multiple children being shot isn’t even shocking anymore.
“Nobody hears about shootings anymore because they happen so often, to cover them all would be impossible,” junior Matthew Shettle said.
Handguns are most commonly used in both small shootings and mass shootings. Being cheap, easier to obtain, and easier to conceal it is no wonder why handguns would be so commonly used. While handguns are the most commonly used, the deadliest mass shootings such as Las Vegas Strip and Pulse Nightclub where more than 40 people died in each, all were done by the usage of automatic rifles with quick-reload capabilities, high capacity, and heavy modifications. Lots of the shootings with the highest death tolls have gunmen which used these powerful man-killing-designed weapons.
However looking at gun deaths in total, most are done with handguns, which makes the situation to solve this more complicated. While many officials and politicians are looking to ban automatic rifles and modifications for them, most deaths are from handguns, and raises the question if banning just automatic rifles would really be enough to solve this problem.
“It’s not just automatic weapons. It’s also smaller guns and handguns that are causing a lot of damage and kill a lot of people,” junior Alex Then said.
As problems continue to remain unsolved more people continue to die, many people are skeptical of law enforcement’s ability to control or handle these situations. During the Uvalde school shooting, law enforcement had failed numerous times to follow their active shooter protocols and training, and made multiple poor leadership decisions during their stand. This raises a question of whether law enforcement has the training or systemic morale to handle these situations, however this question actually goes deeper. While handling an active shooter is a complex and dangerous situation, politicians and those in power also need to do their part in preventing these events, after all there’s only so much law enforcement is able to do.
President Joe Biden originally claimed during his campaign various things such as holding gun manufacturers responsible, and removing weapons designed for war from our streets,and continuously challenging the National Rifle Association or NRA.
“It’s the government officials who have the real effect,” Shettle said.
It goes down to the fact that the people in power are not doing enough to try and solve this.”
— Chloe Carlson
Mental health has had a severe effect on our society in recent years. After the entire COVID-19 pandemic, many people already struggling with mental health have deteriorated further. Some of these shooters have been diagnosed with certain mental health issues or complications. The idea that many shooters and mass murders are people suffering from psychosis or schizophrenia is actually a false claim. Studies done by the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry have actually found that only about 5% of shootings have been committed due to a shooter with severe mental illness. Only about 25% of these shooters have been diagnosed with neurological illnesses as well. These realizations shed light on the fact that mental illness may not be the contributing factor of this large uprise in shootings.
“Mental health isn’t the only reason these shootings keep happening,”Carlson said.
The entirety of the Second Amendment has always been a touchy subject. Some people believe people shouldn’t be allowed to own any firearms at all, some believe almost all weapons should be legal. One of the biggest debates regarding the uprising in shootings and gun violence in general relates to the Second Amendment and whether or not it should be updated. Many facts state that the states with looser gun laws and controls also have higher rates in mass shootings and gun related incidents. Also the original argument for the right to keep weapons doesn’t relate to the now extremely dangerous and advanced weapons.
The Constitution is significant and meaningful but it also slightly contributes to the gun problem,” Shettle said.
A controversial solution to the uprise in school shootings is a movement called Arm the Teachers. Arm the Teachers is a movement where the supporters believe the most efficient way to solve a school shooting scenario is to arm teachers with firearms. Preschool through high school teachers would each have a firearm ready for use incase of an active shooter. While many people find this solution ridiculous and irrational it has gained a large following, and lawmakers in 6 states are pushing this movement. Many others see lots of problems with this solution, such as making it more dangerous in school for students and staff, having to train full and part time teachers to use the weapons, and students could get access to the weapons.
“If a student had gotten their hands on the weapon and was able to do something with it, it’ll become a dangerous situation,” Then said.
With a large rise in mass shootings and gun related deaths, it is no small problem to be looked over, and no easy problem to be solved. The complex conversation of gun violence and the ways to solve it remain under debate by officials, and probably will for a long time.
“It’s a tricky subject, and it always will be,” Shettle said.
Current lockdown protocols outdated, inadequate
As lockdowns in schools have become a regular occurrence in schools across the country, students have known the school lockdown protocols since early elementary school. While most lockdowns do not end in severe violence, there is always a slim chance they will. In those cases, current lockdown procedures in America are outdated and inadequate. Lockdown procedures must be revised to protect students and staff from gun violence.
Active shooter events in schools have been on the rise ever since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, with over 300 between then and 2023. The FBI defines an active shooter event as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” Other infamous shootings, such as the Virginia Tech, Red Lake, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and Uvalde, have caused students and teachers to become paranoid during a lockdown.
The experience of a lockdown
The experience of students during a lockdown is a scary one. Because of the prevalence of gun violence in schools, many students’ immediate assumption when being put into a lockdown is that there is an active shooter in the building. In 2022, an incident at Stillwater Area High School occurred where an intruder entered the building, and law enforcement did not know if they were armed. The building was promptly put on lockdown.
“I wasn’t panicking for some reason, and that normally happens,” senior Sophia Furhmann said. “I’m normally the first one who’s in tears and freaking out, but I wasn’t.”
The experience of a lockdown is not the same for every person. Because of the varying infrastructure of the school, those who are located outside of a typical classroom have a different experience. People in the cafeteria or gyms are not in an already-enclosed space and must seek shelter in the case of a lockdown.
Angie Ryan, gym and health teacher, explained that when she is in the gym, she has access to the storage rooms and will move her class there in case of a lockdown. However, during the incident last year, she was in the weight room, and the police told her not to move her class out of the weight room. She had to move her class to the center of the room in case the glass was shattered and sprayed everywhere.
Administrators in the building call when to go into and come out of a lockdown and be the coordinators. Principal Robert Bach explained that his job is to “manage most of the events with law enforcement. If it’s an actual event, [administrators] cede authority over to law enforcement as soon as they wind up arriving.”
That [kind of response to a fire emergency] would be considered insane. Yet, that is exactly what we have trained an entire generation of Americans to do for active shooters and acts of terrorism.”
— Lt. Joe Hendry
The procedures and their issues
From a very young age, children are told what to do in the case of a fire. If there is a fire in the building but not in the immediate area, evacuate to the nearest exit and get far away from the building. If there is a fire in the immediate area, stay low, avoid the smoke and find a safe exit. If they catch fire, stop, drop, and roll to put the fire out. Children are taught various adaptable strategies to react to this dangerous situation. That is not the case for active shooter events.
Children are taught that their only option as a response to someone trying to gun them down is to hide in a corner with the lights off and remain quiet. Lieutenant Joe Hendry, an expert consultant to the Ohio Department of Homeland Security for civilian response to Active Shooter Incidents, asked himself the same question in ALICE Training Institute: The Origins of Lockdown.
“That [kind of response to a fire emergency] would be considered insane,” Hendry said. “Yet, that is exactly what we have trained an entire generation of Americans to do for active shooters and acts of terrorism.”
Most active shooters at schools come from someone from the school. They know the layout and have likely been through a lockdown drill. Similarly, easily accessible information on historical shootings and their patterns allows active shooters to plan well in advance where people will be and how to cause the most casualties.
“Even more disheartening was the rumor that the Virginia Tech gunman had trained to shoot into the ground,” Hendry said. “It became fairly obvious that he knew where his targets were going to be when he started pulling the trigger.”
Aside from being rigid, inflexible and predictable, current school lockdown protocols for active shooter events were never designed for most American schools’ infrastructure. They were developed for Southern California schools in response to drive-by shootings and street-level crime in the 1960s. Such events usually lasted only a few minutes outside the building perimeters. Lights off, curtains drawn and quiet classrooms would ensure that threats outside of the building could not accurately pinpoint and locate targets.
There is one significant difference between schools in southern California and most other schools around America: the infrastructure of the building. Southern California schools are open-air, with hallways, dining areas and gym facilities outside between indoor classrooms and office modules. Not all schools are in such temperate climates and have entirely enclosed buildings. This factor is the most important when determining what tactics will be used in the case of an active shooter event.
“At Northwood High School, we have a more open infrastructure that is largely outdoors,” explained Brooklyn Quan, senior at Northwood High School in Irvine, California. “That makes running and escaping a much more viable option because there are many pathways to take not directly connected to buildings. We are encouraged to escape, especially during times when we are outside or during breaks because it is easier for a crowd to disperse and exit the main campus than to converge into buildings which may make things chaotic.”
Those tactics developed for open-infrastructure in enclosed buildings could cause more harm than good. If everyone tried to evacuate in an enclosed building at the same time through only a few exits, people would be forced to be funneled through doors, making them sit ducks if the shooter happened across them. If this were to be implemented at Stillwater Area High School, careful logistical planning would be needed to ensure a speedy and efficient evacuation.
SAHS is unique even amongst closed-in structure schools because there is no way to separate parts of the building from one another. Apart from the Pony Athletics Center, all SAHS is connected via hallways. The high school effectively becomes a closed system in the case of an active school shooting since the shooter could access all areas of the school unrestricted.
“Most school buildings have some kind of big, almost fire doors type thing that could lock in the event of a lockdown, and it kind of partitions off sections of the building,” Principal Robert Bach explained.
Protocols to active shooters must be revised
Considering that traditional lockdown procedures are outdated and designed for a vastly different situation than what they are currently used for, it should be the highest priority of all parties concerned to redesign how schools approach active shooter lockdowns. It has been proven over and over that passive responses are not the most effective method when dealing with active shooters.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security suggest that institutions adopt a more flexible response to active shooter events. “Active Shooter – How to Respond” by the Department of Homeland Security lists “evacuation,” “hide out,” and “take action against the shooter” in order as priorities for keeping oneself safe during an active shooter event.
It should be mentioned that an evacuation of the building would cause chaos and could make law enforcement’s job more confusing and complicated. However, the highest priority of any active shooter plan should be to ensure that no one is injured or killed. If getting everyone out of the building is the safest option, schools should start developing an efficient and organized evacuation plan.
The protocols for active shooter events should be adaptable and efficient so that as many people as possible are removed from the presence of gun violence. As active shooter events around the country become more prevalent, schools should work with law enforcement and other experts to promptly revise their responses to active shooter events.
Legislators pushed to ban assault rifles
Legislators are facing pressure to ban assault rifles in the United States. With a rising number of shootings, the push is crucial.
Following the two mass shootings in California this past January, President Joe Biden renewed a call for Congress to pass legislation banning assault rifles.
“We’ve seen all of the damage that can be done with them from school shootings to other public shootings,” sophomore Abigail Jungmann said.
In the two California shootings, there were 19 casualties and 10 people injured. The urgency of these laws is becoming more apparent with the count of shootings increasing every week.
In the United States there have been over 50 mass shootings this year. Although much blood has been shed, the ban has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives or the Senate. The White House is building off strong public support to further propel stricter gun safety laws. This is pressuring Republicans in Congress into changing their thinking.
“I think your ability to own a gun is in the constitution. But, the constitution also does say a well regulated militia. So people forget the word regulated,” history teacher Brady Hannigan said.
Many people against stricter gun laws believe gun ownership is a privilege not to be taken away.
I think your ability to own a gun is in the constitution. But, the constitution also does say a well regulated militia. So people forget the word regulated.”
— Brady Hannigan
The impact on the firearm industry if an assault rifle ban were to happen would depend on a lot of factors. The ban could only ban a few specific gun types leaving the industry not as affected. But if there were many types banned the impact would depend on the willingness of the industry to adapt and find new markets.
“The ban probably wouldn’t stop the industry as a whole. There are a lot of guns that can be used for hunting and other activities,” added junior Marissa Fasick.
Most guns used for hunting and sport are not assault rifles. Many types of guns that are needed for serious hunters will remain available. All in all the ban will help more than it will hurt.
There are alternative solutions to decrease gun violence that could be seeked out. Possible solutions include stricter background checks, red flag laws, more mental health resources, stricter enforcement and more.
“Maybe putting a limit on accessibility to assault rifles on a day to day basis. There’s other places where you have to store it in your locker or you have to be a part of a gun club.” added Hannigan.
If new laws are put in place it will help prevent those with mental health issues, criminal records, and other setbacks from obtaining a gun.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death in the United States. More must be done to restrict and stop the harm assault rifles create in the United States.
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