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.

 

 

Burlington’s Big Issue of Economic Inequality Surfaces in Mayoral Primary

By Ana Gabriela García

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A volunteer talks to a Burlington resident in front of polls.

The town of Burlington this humid afternoon was doted with “I voted” stickers and last minute candidature brochures as people got ready eliminate one of the three mayoral candidates. Which are Celo Faucette, Craig Deaton and Ian Baltutis

Each candidate had differing platforms, however the concerns of voters were mostly centered around the same thing: Burlington’s issue of economic inequality.

Priscilla Starling, an energetic woman handing who spent her afternoon handing out mayoral brochures and pens in the entrance of the polls, said: “Everybody is always worried about the economy. How do we make it better?” She then referenced the grand economic disparity between the east and west side of Burlington, which many other voters reiterated throughout the day.

According to DATA-USA, the median house-hold income in Burlington is $36,140, which is less than the median average income in the United States.

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Information given by DATA USA

It is interesting to note that region, ethnicity and gender were the main factors for economic disparity in the city.

For instance, males earn 1.21 percent more than their female counterparts. And Asian or Asian-American residents earn more than their caucasian and black or African-American counterparts with a salary between 61,400 and 27,193. Black or African Americans earned the least of all their counterparts, earning a salary between 28,218 and 3,314.

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Orange= White | Green=Asian |Orange=Black/African-American | Teal=Multi-racial | Purple=Unknown| Blue=Other/Native American | Mustard=American Indian|

Bryan, a longtime resident of Burlington who attended UN Chapel Hill commented that he believed one of the biggest issues was “Economic development on the east side of Burlington.” For him, a roadblock preventing the east-side from advancing economically is the lack of diverse voices and perspectives in the local government.

“It’s tough if everyone on the board lives in the same neighborhood.”

Bryan championed the current mayor Baltutis, as he “is probably the most out of character historically. I think he’s trying to bring a more inclusive voice to the community. I think he’s fairly forward thinking.”

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Map of Income by location in Burlington, NC.

Bobbie Mcmillan, the assistant director of nursing at Cone Health, who has lived in Burlington for 30 years, also said that the biggest issue facing the town was “Growth. We need to revitalize some areas.” When asked which ones, she referred, as many others did, to the east.

The region is one of the most important determinants of income in Burlington.

In the east side Burlington, communities with medium wages of 23,759, 29,741 and 32,865 are right next to smaller, more concentrated communities with medium wages of 82,837, and 65,203.

On the west side of Burlington, there are only two medium income brackets 49,602 to the north and 57,436 to the south.

Unlike Bryan, Bobbie believed that Facuette was the candidate that “has vision for our city. I think he has a handle for what we need in our community.”

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Voters usually bring their children, young nephews or grandchildren along with them to the polling station.

The Candidates respective platforms, as explained in detail below, are varied and showcase their very different personalities and perspectives on Burlington’s needs.

Yet, all candidates share one striking similarity. They do not address the ways in which income is distributed in regards to regional, gendered and ethnic/racial differences within the city.

  • Celo Faucette is mayor pro tem, and thus already holds a place on the City council. Faucette’s main campaign promise and goal as Mayor is to revitalize east Burlington, keep governmental costs at a low and introduce a mass transit system to the Burlington area.
  • Craig Deaton is a local businessman with a passion for God, who uses Facebook as his main platform for campaigning. His platform is built on the fact that he is a conservative with great morale,  who “wants to see that we remain great.” He expresses deep worry for the greenways and bikeway projects and has a deep desire to “restore and protect out history.”
  • Ian Baltutis  is the current mayor of Burlington, a business owner, and an Elon University graduate. During his term, he encouraged civic engagement and expressed a passion for promoting leadership in young people.