Gun violence creates distrust

By Northern Star Editorial Board

Gun violence isn’t just killing youth; it’s also destroying Americans’ trust in one another.

As the NIU campus and DeKalb community came together in commemoration of a tragic event that struck the university 10 years ago, another tragedy was unfolding in Florida.

NIU is part of a club — a club that no institution wants to be a part of. In that club are other universities, schools and communities that have been devastated and forever changed because of gun violence.

Americans send their condolences to those who are victims of senseless acts of gun violence. Despite also being impacted by mass shootings, some politicians are slow and resistant to enacting comprehensive measures to prevent such violence. An ongoing debate resurfaces with fervor whenever large mass shootings catch the country’s attention, but the outrage seems to disappear until another large shooting occurs.

President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, recently said the country needs to address the mental health issues often attached to shooters who commit these crimes. Federal law already prohibited such folks from legally purchasing weapons, yet Trump touted his rollback of Obama-era regulations, including classes of firearm restrictions to persons with certain mental health classifications, according to a Feb. 15, 2017, Associated Press article.

Yes, mental health is an issue, but the process of obtaining weapons has been repeatedly proven inadequate and deserves to be placed under a scope.

There was a time when children were taught in school how to respond to bomb attacks. Since the end of the Cold War when the focus was on the threat of a state actor, children have been trained in how to respond to the country’s internal threat of active shooters. We are losing faith and trust in our fellow Americans.

The FBI conducted a 2014 study that assessed active shooting between 2000 and 2013. The study found out of 160 shootings occurred during those years, that 39 or 24 percent, took place at an educational facility.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association CEO, Dec. 21, 2012, after the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting. That line has been echoed by politicians and a certain segment of the population since then.

LaPierre was promoting the idea that each school should be protected by properly trained, armed officials. The argument has been used by leaders like Colorado’s Sen. Ted Harvey, who introduced a bill to allow school teachers to carry guns after a student killed a fellow classmate and set the school’s library on fire, according to a Jan. 6, 2014, FOX News article. His bill focused on allowing teachers who are trained in weapons-use to carry in schools but fell short of providing additional training, like reacting to an active shooter situation.

The FBI’s 2014 study indicates the argument that more armed citizens are needed to thwart such attacks is, at best, misinformed.

This misinformation goes further when one considers the quick response time by NIU’s campus police during the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting. Dispatch received a call at 3:06:07 p.m., and campus police told dispatch they were in the area at 3:06.33, according to the 2008 campus shooting official report.

By all accounts, “good guys” with guns were immediately on the scene of the shooting, yet lives were still lost.

Adding to the inconsistency of LaPierre’s argument is the FBI’s study which found unarmed citizens had more success when disrupting mass shootings compared to armed citizens.

Of the 160 incidents identified in the FBI’s study, 21 shootings were interrupted by an unarmed citizen while six armed citizens successfully ended the threat.

This is not an endorsement from the editorial board for private citizens to engage active shooters. Rather, it’s a data-informed argument more Americans are encouraged to consider.

Americans need to be consistent with those who’ve been elected to represent their best interest and keep pressing leaders to affect change. The culture of ignoring loosely interpreted gun laws and access to weapons is not just a physical threat to America’s wellbeing; it’s a threat to Americans’ ability to trust their fellow citizens.