Recent mass shootings encourage Elon and Burlington students, faculty and community members to reflect on America’s gun culture and violence

Chief of Burlington Police addresses Elon students’ questions on gun violence.

The two recent mass shootings have provoked a debate all across the nation. At Elon University, this debate has focused on America’s gun culture, the restrictions placed on bump-stocks and automatic weapons, and the general feel of safety within the community.

In the span of 35 days, two of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States occurred one after another. The first, which happened in October 1st in last Vegas’ Route 91 music festival near the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, resulted in 58 deaths and 546 wounded. The second, on November 5th, there was in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and resulted in the death of 26 people.

‘It’s our culture, and we created the circumstance,” commented Burlington Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe regarding America’s gun violence culture.

Thomas Nelson, associate professor of communications, compared America’s gun culture with that of German’s auto and speeding culture. You can’t change Germany’s speeding laws without angering a lot of people, and the same goes for gun laws in the U.S.

“With the recent mass shootings, I am constantly paranoid in any public setting that can put me in danger. I think it’s a human right to feel safe in your environment.”

– Murray, a sophomore at Elon University

For Nelson, the creation of new laws should not be the main focus, due to America’s gun culture. What should be the main focus in reducing gun violence are the possible modifications within the framework already in place.

“It does not matter what I think or anyone else thinks because it’s [laws regarding gun legislation and regulation] not going to happen.” Said Nelson.

Although there is no sure way of knowing how many guns are owned illegally and legally in the United States, a 2012 Congressional Research Service report stated that the number of civilian firearms in 2009 was 310 million. This number, the Congressional Research Service reported, has been consistently on the rise. In 1996 it was estimated that the number of civilian owned guns was 242 million, in 2000 it increased to 259 million.

With the number of gun related homicides well in the thousands—according  to the CDC’s most recent data in 2013 it was 11,208—more and more people are worried for their safety.

Livy Murray, a sophomore at Elon University, expressed her growing concerns after the two most recent mass shootings.

“With the recent mass shootings, I am constantly paranoid in any public setting that can put me in danger. I think it’s a human right to feel safe in your environment.”

The general misconception that mass shootings similar that of Las Vegas have increased, however, is incorrect. since 2000,2  the rates of homicides in the U.S. have decreased significantly. This is according to Maggie Koerth-Baker, a senior science writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Even though there are many opposing sides to the debate on gun violence, many people believe that the most important thing is to regulate gun laws.

Clarissa O’quinn, a sophomore at Elon said,

“The more regulations on guns the better. Because gun violence is such a huge problem.”

“Background checks. That’s the first line of defense,” said Hays.

Discussion surrounding gun reform and safety usually centers on the effectiveness of background checks and which restrictions should be placed on automatic weapons, as well as bump-fire stocks, which have the ability to transform any weapon into an automatic one.

For police chief Smythe the solution to gun violence lies in investing in good education and civil values.

“The best way to prevent gun violence is proper education,” said Smythe.

In regards to the availability of bump-stocks and automatic weapons, Smythe believes that a person who has a gun, no matter which type, is dangerous. He referred to these questions as the “red herrings” of gun violence debates.

In his view, the debate on background checks is also broad and convoluted. It’s not about making the background checks more complex, but about,

“Making it effective in identifying people who are not fit to have firearms.”

Yet, even though police chief Smythe believes that restricting the availability and use of bump-stocks and automatic rifles does not help in reducing gun violence, many members of the community do believe so.

“I think there is the key—all that junk. Because people who are buying that stuff are already fetishizing guns.” Neslon said.

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Stephanie Hays, a senior at Elon University agrees that taking some guns off of the market is the key.

“Any sort of automatic weapon or rifle like that is unnecessary for civilians. Any kind of automatic weapon or stuff like that should be left to the military and the country’s defense,” said Hays.

These discussions have already gone way past party lines in the United States. the National Rifle Association said in October of 2017 said that it would  support measure to limit bump stock sales, while some congressional Republicans have signaled  that they are willing to negotiate on gun reform.

“I think people are paranoid that at any given moment anyone could jeopardize their safety,” remarks Murray on the current atmosphere of the United States.



Math Tools for Journalist (Chp. 7 – 12)

By Ana Gabriela García

Chapter 7: Stocks and Bonds

Bonds are used by both governments and businesses to raise money.


  1. Stocks

Stocks serve as investments for individuals, as through them a person can own a part of a company. Corporations issue millions of stocks, giving away tiny amounts of ownership, in order to raise cash.

The value of a stock varies over time, based on demand. For instance, if less people want to buy a stock, the price goes down.


Mutual Funds are an alternative to individual stocks. Mutual Fund Companies buy stock from other companies and then sell the shares of funds used to buy those stocks.






Stock Table Vocabulary

Above is an example of a newspaper’s stock table.

  • 52-week High/Low: In the past year, it states which stock prices have been the lowest or the highest.
  • Div: the lsdt dividend that the company paid shareholders
  • PE- Price/Earnings ratio: you can get this by dividing the stock price with the per-share earnings of the last 12 months
  • Last- the cost of one share at the end of the day before the newspaper was printed
  • Change- the amount of fluctuation in the value of the stock, how much it increased or decreased in value that day


  1. Bonds

Governments and companies can also raise money by selling bonds. A bond acts like a loan, given by an investor to a corporation or government of their choosing. These are often referred to as “low-risk” investments. Many bonds are also tax-exempt.


A buyer can also earn interest at a set rate with bonds, since bonds have set payment dates and a set maturity date.


A bond’s face value can be the original amount a buyer has paid for it, most often it is the amount the buyer will receive at maturity.


Yet bonds are often sold on the open market before they mature, and therefore, even as their face value and interest remain the same, the value of the bond can increase or decreases depending on fluctuation demand and supply of the market. In other words, Buyer A can buy a bond with a face value of $1,000 and a 5 percent interest rate of ($50), but then sells it when the market is down for $500, Buyer B will get a better current yield.


Current Yield is the return on investment on a bond, which fluctuates. To calculate this, follow the formula:

Current Yield = (interest rate x face value) / price


Carla Muñoz buys a bond for $2,000 that had an original price of $1,500. The bond has an 8 percent interest rate. Her current yield is:

6% = (8% x $1,500)/ $2,000



Ricardo Velez then bought that same bond for $1,000. His current yield is:

12% = (8% x $1,500)/$1,000


Bond Cost

For reporters, the cost of bonds issued by municipalities are news worthy. The formula to calculate this is:
Bond Cost (interest) = amount x rate x years


  1. Market Indexes

Instead of examining dozens of individual stock prices, investors can look at stock indexes for a snapchat of the overall market conditions. Stock indexes looks at certain groups of stocks and track their prices.


NASDAQ, S&P 500, Russell 2,000, and DOW JONES are examples of stock indexes.


Bonds also use indexes, like the J.P. Morgan Government Bond Index, to convey a snapshot of the overall market.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

The Dow Jones provides a view of the entire stock market. It represents the total value of a divisor divided by the respective shares of 30 select stocks.


The divisor is a figure that includes account stock dividends, splits, spin-offs, and other applicable corporate actions.




Or the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations is a quotation system that reports on the trading of bonds that are not listed on regular markets and of domestic stocks. NASDAQ is monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission.



Chapter 8: Property Taxes

The greatest source of income for local governments are property taxes. Property taxes are very news worthy, since they pay for day-to-day expenses.


The property tax rate is determined by dividing the total amount of money the local government needs with the property owners in that tax district. The individual amount each property owner pays depends on the value of their respective property.


Taxing districts take homes, boats and other valuable assets into account. The formula for tax property varies depending on the state and local government.


These taxes are measured in units called mills, which are 1/10 of a cent ($0.001), and they are expressed in mills levied for each dollar of assessed valuation or property. One mil per dollar is 10 cents per $100 assessed valuation.


The price that a home would be sold at has no influence on its property tax. Property taxes only take into account the assessed value of the home, in other words, a percentage of market value.


Reappraisal is when real property values are updated to reflect the current market value of all the taxable properties within a taxing district. If a neighborhood improved in value, a reappraisal takes this into account.


Reappraisals can occur every few years, or never.


Property can also be taxed by many different governing bodies. For instance, some home owners have to pay county and city taxes, other might just have to pay city taxes.


Different types of property have different percentages with which to calculate their assessed value. A farm real estate can be assessed at 15 percent, while an industrial property is assessed at 35 percent.


Officials within local governments regulate the tax rate process.


  1. Mill

The formula for finding mill levy is:

Mill levy = taxes to be collected by the governmental body / assessed valuation of all property in the taxing district


  1. Appraisal Value

Based on:

  • Use of property (i.e. business, home, etc.…)
  • Location
  • Square footage
  • Number of stories
  • Exterior wall type
  • Year it was constructed (age)
  • Quality of construction
  • Amenities (bathrooms, porches, etc.…)
  • Other characteristics of the property similar to those mentioned above ^
  • Current market conditions (the sales in the immediate area over a period of years)
  • A visual inspection by trained appraiser


  1. Assessed Value

Local policies in the end are what determined the assessed value of a property, to which a mill levy is always applied.


The formula for assessed value is:

assessed value = appraisal value x rate


Market Town assesses residential property at 30 percent of the appraisal value. A house at 201 Town Place is appraised at $135,000. What is the assessed value of the house?

$40,500  = .30 x $135,000



  1. Calculating Tax

The formula is:

Tax owed = tax rate x (assessed value of the property/$100)

If the rate is based on an amount per $1,000 of assessed value, the assessed value should be divided by $1,000 rather than $100.


Chapter 9: Directional Measurements

  1. Time, Rate & Distance

The basic formula for all time, rate and distance is the same, with elements of it switched around at times. The units of measurement (i.e. mph) should be the same for all three components of the equation.

Time = distance x rate


Rate = time x distance


Distance = rate x time


If time is given in minutes and you are working with mph, divide them by 60 to use hours instead.


For example:

Marnie is in a rural, mountainous part of North Carolina and she wants to leave and rejoin civilization at Greensboro. How far did she travel if she drove at an average speed of 20 mph for five hours.

100 miles = 20 mph x 5 hours


  1. Speed & Acceleration

Speed and Velocity are not the same measurement.

Speed = how fast an object is going

Velocity = indicates the direction of that object


Instantaneous Speed is the speed an object is going at that exact moment.


To find the average speed (or rate) of an object, use the formula:

average speed = distance x time


To find the acceleration of an object, use the formula:

acceleration = (ending velocity – starting velocity) / time


The formula for acceleration can be changed in order to find the ending velocity, starting velocity or time.


ending velocity = (acceleration x time) + starting velocity


  1. G Force

An acceleration measure in which one “g” represents the normal force of gravity in the Earth’s surface.


One measures the acceleration produced by Earth’s gravity at 9.8 meters or 32.2 feet per second per second. Two g’s equals 2 x 32.2.


  1. Momentum

The force needed to stop an object that is in motion. The formula used to find an object’s momentum is:

momentum = mass x velocity


Chapter 10: Area Measurements

Measurements can be explained in two ways.

Analogies: “The hotel was as big as twelve football stadiums”

: These fail when readers do not understand the comparisons being made

: Or when exact measurements are needed


Accurate Numbers (area, perimeter, circumference, etc.)

  1. Perimeter

For square and rectangular shaped objects, always use the formula:

Perimeter = (2 x length) + (2 x 5) = 28 feet


Add the lengths of all sides to determine the size of the perimeter of an irregular shaped object.


  1. Area of squares and rectangles

The formula for both is the same.

Area = length x width


  1. Area of a triangle

Use the two shortest sides as ‘base’ and ‘height’

Area = .5base x height


  1. Square feet and Square yards

Square inches or square feet are used to measure small spaces, while square feet and square yards are used to measure larger areas (i.e. parking lots).


Fields are measured in acres and cities, states and counties in miles.



  • 144 square inches = 1 square foot
  • 9 square feet = 1 square yard
  • 30 square yards = 1 square rod
  • 160 square rods = 1 acre
  • 1 acre = 43,650 square feet
  • 640 acres = 1 square mile


  1. Radius, Circumference and Area of Circle

The distance from any edge to the center of a circle is the radius.

The distance around the radius, or the area of the circle, is its circumference.

Pi (π) is 3.14


The formula for finding the circumference is:

circumference = 2 π x radius


While the formula for finding the area is:

area = π x radius2


For example,

Allie wants to know the distance around the fountain in front of the Alamance building at Elon University. The distance from the end of the fountain to the middle if 6 feet.

2 π (or 6.28) x 6 feet = 37.68


Chapter 11: Volume Measurements

  1. Liquid Measurements

These apply to measurements in cooking recipes, and other fluids.

1 U.S. gallon = 4/5 imperial gallon

1 British or Canadian barrel = 36 imperial gallons

Crude Oil barrels in international markets contain 42 U.S. gallons or 35 imperial gallons.








  1. Rectangular Solids

volume = length x width x height

  1. Cord

Cord is a measurement used when selling firewood.

1 cord = 128 cubic feet (when wood stacked neatly in line or row)


1 standard cord = a stack of wood 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet high.


  1. Ton

There are three different kinds of tons:

  1. Short ton = 2,000 pounds
  2. Long ton (or British ton) – 2,240 pounds
  3. Metric ton = 1,000 kilograms, or 2,204.62 pounds


Chapter 12: The Metric System

The metric ton is used by almost every other country except the United States, therefore it is an imperative measure for international commerce and science.


This system is based on multiples of 10.



The meter is the basic unit for length.


Mass is derived from the meter.


1 gram is the mass of one cubic centimeter of water at 0 degrees celsuis.


The Newton is the metric unit of force. When applied to a one-kilogram object, the Newton gives the object and acceleration of one meter per second per second.


A Newton can be used as a measure of weight.


1 kilogram weighs 9.8 Newtons on Earth.



In the metric system, a user can change from one unit to another by multiplying or dividing by 100, 1,000, and other multiples of 10.


Each unit is 10 times as large as the next smaller unit. Prefixes, added to the front of a unit’s name, create smaller or larger factors.



  • Meter (length)
  • Gram (mass)
  • Liter (volume)



Micro (1 millionth) or 0.000001

Milli (1 thousandth) or 0.001

Centi (1 hundredth) or 0.01


Deka = 10

Hecto = 100

Kilo = 1,000

Mega = 1,000,000

Giga = 1,000,000,000

Tetra = 1,000,000,000,000



To convert American lengths to Metric:

Millimeters = 25.4 x inches

Centimeters = 2.5 x inches


Centimeters = 30 x feet

Meters = 0.3 x feet


Centimeters = 90 x yards

Meters = 0.9 x yards


Kilometers = 1.6 miles


To convert Metric lengths to American:

Inches = 0.04 x millimeters

Inches = 0.4 x centimeters

Inches = 3.9 x meters



Feet = 0.033 x centimeters

Feet = 3.3 x meters


Yards = 1.1 x meters


Miles = 0.62 x kilometers


For instance,

Marie wants to find out the length, in feet, of the 30-meter swimming pool she swam at during her time abroad in Europe.

30 meters x 3.3 = 99 feet

Area, & Mass:






Style Rules

  • All the names of units should start with lowercase when in the middle of a sentence, except for “degree Celsius.”
  • Symbols for units are pluralized
  • Names of units are plural when the numerical value that precedes it is greater than one.
  • The symbols for units (i.e. mm) are never pluralized



There is a space between the number and the symbol to which it refers. For instance, 10 m, 24.8 kg




Consistent rise in tuition fees fosters discussion on the affordability and value of college degrees

By: Ana Gabriela García

A report by the College Board, published earlier this semester on Oct. 24, announced that tuition and fees increased at Colleges and Universities across the nation by less than 2 percent between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

For non-profit four-year academic institutions, the increase in tuition fees was 1.9 percent. In dollars, the increase averaged $34,740 in 2017-18, after adjusting for inflation. Elon’s tuition fees are $34,273.

Elon’s tuition, along with that of other four-year institutions, has been rising consistently for six straight years, the report states.

“I get that all colleges and Universities have to increase tuition, but I think it’s sad to the people applying here that it limits them,” said Diego Pineda, an Elon junior.

Sourced: The Rice Thresher

Greg Zaiser, the vice president for enrollment at Elon University, believes that by maintaining a lower cost, Elon is accessible to a larger number of student applicants.

“Elon is working to keep cost increases at a minimum,” Zaiser said. “Our total cost is often $10,000 less than schools to which our students also apply.”

Many students believe that another factor that limits future applicants of less economic resources is the amount of financial aid and scholarships offered at the university.

“I don’t think the rising tuition impacts as much the students that it (Elon) attracts,” said Stef Milovic, a student at Elon University. “The availability of scholarships is more important in bringing a diverse socio-economic group of applicants.”

“One of the biggest things I think they should change is the amount of money the give for scholarships,” said Sophie Eng, an Elon student.

In fact, Sophie says she has experienced first-hand the effects that a good scholarship can offer students. Even though her brother’s tuition was more than half of Elon’s, the scholarship package given to her brother cut his tuition cost in half, ultimately making it the same as that of Elon’s.

From left to right: Sophie Eng, and Diego Pineda. Discussing Elon’s tuition and fees.

The increase has cumulated in a national debate on the affordability of higher education and the “return of investment” that college education offers undergraduate students. Although many people question the “return of investment” of a college education, many Elon students do not.

“I do think college is a good return on investment. This day and age it’s very difficult to find a job without a college degree,” says Grace Morris, a sophomore at Elon.

Morris believes the education that she receives at Eon’s Communications school is what makes her degree a definite return on investment.

“Especially at a school like Elon, where the Communications program is incredible, I feel like my degree is worth something even though it costs a lot.”

Milovic agreed with Morris on the value of her Elon degree, and also believes that the value of a degree is based, really, on what type of higher Ed institution a student goes to.

“Yes, I do think it is a sound return on my investment. For Elon, especially. They not only build an inclusive community, but even offer ample networking an professional opportunities that lead to future careers.”

Tuition at higher education not only impacts current, enrolled students, but also future applicants, as it continues to be an important deciding factor for future students looking at various four-year institutions.

“When I made a college decision it was based on money at the end of the day, because Elon gave me more money than other colleges I applied to,” says Pineada.

“My brother went to a more expensive school in New York, so that was a big deciding factor—my dad was really excited about that because it was half the tuition of my brother’s school,” said Eng.