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.

 

 

Behind Every Great Immigration Reform Movement, There is a Great Activist

By Ana Gabriela García

Carla A Mena

Carla A. Mena

Carla A. Mena, 27, is the daughter of a Peruvian Caterer and a laborer. She considers herself to be equal parts Peruvian and American. Specifically, Southern. “Who even likes unsweetened tea?” Carla asks, seriously. “Why would you even do that?” Assimilating wholly into the U.S. and giving up her Peruvian customs, as the Attorney General suggested, is as unthinkable to her as rooting against Chelsea FC in a soccer match. “I don’t want to and I am not going to.” Carla says

Carla spends her time teaching young women in transitional homes sex education. This allows her to merge her professional life with her passion for health education and her strong sense of civic duty. It also allows her to not arouse suspicion for carrying a Ziploc bag filled with condoms and Styrofoam molds of male genitalia.

In addition to her main profession, she does research at Duke University and is on the board of many organizations, such as: Wake up Wake county, ALPES (Alianza Latino Pro-Education Salúd), The Campaign for Southern Equality, and El Pueblo Inc. at Raleigh.

Since 2004, she has advocated for the rights of Latinos and Immigrants in the U.S. Not only was she part of a generation of undocumented residents that lived through various failed attempts at immigration reform, but she was also at the forefront of all three of the biggest reform movements. The 2008 Reform Immigration for America Act, The 2010 Dream Act and the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Precisely how long has she been campaigning for reform?
“For too long, obviously,” Carla says.

The Road to Becoming an Activist

Carla was introduced to the world of activism and advocacy as a result of her mother’s worst migraine attack. It happened three years after Carla and her family moved to the U.S. They had never needed a doctor before this migraine, so they had never been to one. Finding a clinic for her mother took hours of flipping through yellow pages and white pages and newspapers until they found one.

It was in this clinic where Carla and her mother met the “Líderes de Salud,” a group of women that promoted healthy habits and well-being in the Latino community. A group which her mother would later become a part of.

Carla’s eyes are the brightest thing in the room when she reminisces sitting through the group’s meetings, crowded by adults. To Florence, the woman in charge of ‘Líderes de Salud,’ Carla seemed to show much interest in health education and in advocacy. Most of all, she seemed to be perfect for their youth program, ‘El Pueblo.’

“I guess Florence saw something in me… and that’s all I needed… and I’m really thankful for that.”

This youth group honed Carla’s leadership skills. El Pueblo had its own conferences to highlight the group’s goals and how to achieve them. It also joined forces and coordinated events with other groups. With help from a health and wellness grant, El Pueblo began a “No Fuma” tobacco prevention program. Eventually, with the group’s persuasion, many restaurants became tobacco-free.

The Beginnings of Immigration Reform

Three years later, when RIFA made immigration reform an imperative goal and possible reality in 2008, Carla had already developed the skills needed to protest and advocate.

The Reform Immigration for America Act, RIFA, was the first viable proposal introduced to Congress and the community of undocumented residents in the United States. It was also the quickest to fail. For Carla, the reason was simple. “RIFA was citizens trying to tell undocumented people what to do, and not taking us into account,” She said. “And you can’t do that.”

“If you don’t know what your community looks like and how it works, then you can’t get anywhere.”

The Fight Continues

After this failure, there came the Dream Act, which proved to be an equally disappointing battle. And a very arduous one for Carla and her coalition.

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Carla and coalition members during a demonstration. It alludes to senator Hagan’s promise of education for all North Carolinians

Everywhere she goes, Carla takes with her the memory of her and her coalition’s fight for the Dream Act. It is in the confidence of her voice when she speaks. It is in the pride that she expresses for her friends and her community. It is in the dedication and effort she puts in “El Pueblo” today, helping and mentoring the undocumented youth. It is in the vivid details she remembers of Hagan and her time campaigning.

“Her whole campaign was based on ‘S. Hagen for the education of all North Carolinians.’ Like I even know her damn slogan.” Carla said.

For weeks they went to Hagan’s town halls, waited to speak with her staffers, took four and a half hour drives to DC. They dressed up in graduation caps and gowns and stood silent, with white cloth tied around their mouths. She hung “Call Hagan” posters around her neck. Protestors who went to the frontlines ran the threat of being arrested for civil disobedience. Many did.

But this wasn’t enough. Carla said, “She just did not care, she did not stand for what she said she did. Her website said all over that she stood for education, and if that’s what she was standing for then I don’t know why she would leave us out.”

Carla’s most powerful attempt to get Senator Hagan’s attention, and vote, was a fast for two weeks. Three of her fellow coalition members followed the fast with a hunger strike in downtown Raliegh. Senator Hagan’s only response was to tell the group to not stop eating. To Carla, it was an offense on Hagan’s part to say that the Dream Act wasn’t worth doing a hunger strike. “Because it was our lives on the line. And she’s thinking that it’s not worth it.” Carla said.

 “She (Senator Hagan) was one of the last people that shut it down and vote ‘No.’ And I will never forget that moment.”

A Silver Lining

In 2012, these bleak moments were finally followed by one semi-successful achievement, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. It lasted 4 years and allowed over 600,000 undocumented immigrants to apply for jobs and to institutions of higher education.

Carla said that “When it was signed a lot of us said: ‘we’re finally able to breathe a little bit better.’ And we hadn’t been able to breathe in a long time.” To breathe, for Carla and many others, meant to be able to drive with a license, to not be afraid of getting sick for lack of medical insurance, to exist without the constant fear of being deported.

DACA, for Carla, brought the feeling of being validated. “We wanted to exist for a minute. At least I did.” She confesses. “I wanted to be able to just be for a second.”

DACA also brought Carla a sense of achievement, a feeling somewhat like pride. Since it was a result of the pressures that immigration activists put on Barack Obama. Carla said, “I mean Obama didn’t wake up and was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this because I’m a good person.”

Starting Again

Its repeal by President Donald Trump did not surprise Carla and her coalition. “This was not a permanent solution.” Carla said. Meaning, it was never a path to citizenship. There is in her a deep regret for what has happened. Not for the repeal, but for having let her guard down, for waiting until ’45’ (as she refers to the President) got elected to do something about DACA.

But, Carla said, “we take care of more than just ourselves. We take care of our families.” And maybe that is why she and many others had, for a few years, let their guards down.

“We have had to pick up where we left off, or where some of us hadn’t left off.”

Carla has gained much insight from her time being at the forefront of all three reforms “At this point, we’ve learned what has worked, how we need to tackle things.” Carla said. For her, things seem oddly hopeful. Immigration might not be a new story, but this time it’s different Carla said. “More people seem to be on the bandwagon.”

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Carla and her Coalition advocating for the 2010 Dream Act, they will all  have to pick up where they left off.

The Reason People Listen

When Carla talks, everyone listens. Carla’s words aren’t boisterous or arrogant. Her voice is laced with dry humor and holds a meticulous patience that comes from having to endlessly narrate your experiences to panels, government officials, colleagues, friends, and people within your own community.

Tito, a fellow advocate and close friend, said that Carla and all dreamers are expected to repeat their stories, “because some people feel like we owe them that explanation.” Carla explodes in laughter after this comment, the same welcome surprise of when she saw him say it on live television overcoming her.

But that is part of educating people. Of using your voice and your story to represent countless others who are unable to tell their own. It is also part of the burden of representing your community. Within Carla’s rhetoric lie many voices.

Documented residents, white people, they have privilege in general, but they also have the privilege to surround me, Carla argues. This is especially true when it comes to the misconception of what undocumented residents look like. Many Carla’s white friends assume or have assumed that she is a citizen. Often because of who she is or where she is in her professional career.

“If I had for some reason not been around and they hadn’t been around me, then they would continue to have the misconception of what we look like.” Carla said.

“It’s not so much about how they can change me, but how I can change them.”

The Fruits of Activism

Carla is representative of the great changes an activist can bring about on both a national scale and more importantly, on a person-to-person scale. Her advocacy work awakens a sense of civic duty and responsibility outside of and within her own community.

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Carla Mena holds a sign durign a rally, while a father and his daughter embrace.

An Elon student, Dreamer and Veteran approaches Carla after he sees her speak at a panel about Daca. He remembers when DACA was just a rumor, and he remembers seeing Carla’s and Tito’s efforts on Television. “I got here in 1995, and I seen all these movements, I’m 31 years old.” He tells her. “That’s why, when I heard you talk, you amazed me… because everything that I was seeing on TV, it was all you. And him (Tito) too.”

It wasn’t just amazement that Carla gave him, it was also the will to use his voice to empower others and to push for immigration reform. He told her, “Now that I heard you, I heard him and I heard others, I’m like, ‘you know what, If they are able to do that sacrifice, why do I have to pull back?”

“Me being a veteran, I think the war that these guys fought it has such a great merit. Because it takes a lot of skill, courage to come out and talk and to go through this type of movement. It’s… my salutes to you.” – Elon Student, Veteran and Dreamer

Cristina, a sophomore and undocumented student at Elon University, also praised Carla after seeing her speak about DACA, she said, “I am so glad I met you. I was seeing this stuff on TV, and I was young, I didn’t know that I was undocumented. Then to meet you and to know that you were doing that and that I was watching it on TV it’s like, damn.”

Carla identifies as many things: American, Southern, Peruvian, a woman, an undocumented citizen. By everyone around her, she is identified as a fighter, as someone who incites change.

Students Fill their Bellies at Elon’s Food Truck Frenzy

By Ana Gabriela García

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Students Mackenzie Walsh, Hannah Dobrogsz and friends at today’s Food Truck Frenzy.

The Food Truck Frenzy event, sponsored by Elon Dining and the Student Union Board is back, and during this midterm week. The stressful environment on campus was assuaged by colorful food, music and fragrant smells.

The essentials to relieve stress were all present today at the Koury Lot, fried food, sugar, laughter, and friends.

The food trucks served a wide variety of foods from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to Elon students and faculty.

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Student gets Indian Food at Tara

By 11:30 students had swarmed the area. Hannah Dobrogosz, a sophomore, said it was her first time coming.

“It’s really good,” Dobrogosz said, taking a bite from her Arroz Con Pollo, ACP, ordered from the Mexican Grill Foodtruck.

“I’m gonna get a second ticket.” She said.

Among the many food trucks participating in the event was “Bam Pow Chow,” Mexican Grill, Pelican’s SnoBalls, Jam Soft Serve Ice Cream, Soon Soom Pita Pocket, Tazaa and Tootie’s.

Jake West, a former tour manager in the music business turned chef, took me behind the scenes to talk about his truck, “Dusty Donuts, Mini Donuts.”

Sebastian Vallejo, a junior at Elon, had a wide grin on his face as he ate his ACP. “It’s my multiple time,” he said referring to his countless trips to the trucks, “I don’t know how many times I’ve been here.”

When asked what he loved about his ACP, which his friend was also devouring, he said, “It’s easy to make, it’s delicious. Not so filling so that’s good. So I have enough space for other food.” he laughed.

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Sebastian Vallejo eagerly eats his ACP.

Students were able to buy pre-purchased tickets or buy them on-site at the event using Elon Meal Dollars, Food Dollars, Phoenix Cash or regular cash or credit card. One ticket can be purchased for $6, three for $15 and five for $20.

Lakeside dining hall was closed during lunch because of the event. However, Colonnades and retail food locations remained open.

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Go Beyond ‘Good Enough’

Every day people are bombarded with more hours of media than there are actually hours in a day. The amount of information people consume in a day is even worrisome, or interesting, enough to make headlines! Most recently a study by ZenithOptimedia gained a fair amount of coverage once it found

ten tips forgreat reporting.pngthat people spend more than 490 minutes every day looking at media. The growing accessibility of information and humans increasing curiosity for knowledge have helped foster this news-frenzy. Yet from all the positive outcomes of gaining knowledge, there is still one prevalent concern: How can someone identify great reporting from bad reporting?

Great reporting goes beyond ‘good enough’ when it is not only informative, but also accurate, relevant, engaging and interesting. Different types of articles do not always focus on or put the most importance on the same aspects. For instance, in a feature-like obituary story, like the one discussed below by Jack Nicholson, having anecdotes that help characterize the subject and introducing another voice, an added perspective of someone who knew the subject, are imperative to the story. While in a “hard story” about a recent event, inserting the 5 W’s (where, when, what, why and how) in the nut graph and being thorough yet clear when explaining what occurred is what makes the story stand out.

Yet, across the spectrum of storytelling there are certain aspects that must be included and executed properly in a story in order for it to be great. One aspect is the inclusion of sources that build credibility, and quotes that advance a story and also help to reveal a character. These sources and quotes should be diverse, since it is important that a thorough article has different perspectives, insights and points of view within the story. Another is a lead that attracts the reader’s attention by using strong verbs, details, imagery, rhythm or originality.

The best stories are also those that use direct, active voice, avoid jargon and explain difficult concepts simply yet clearly enough for anyone, a 50 year old scholar to an 18 high-schooler, to understand.

Below are examples of great reporting, and the reasons as to why they have attained this title.

 Jim Nicholson: Edward E. “Ace” Clark, Ice and Coal Dealer

Jim Nicholson’s feature obituary, proves the phrase ‘Everybody’s got a story” true. It also emphasizes the democratic nature of journalism, how the most hard-hitting stories are those which seek to chronicle the life, the successes and failures, the many or lack of advancements, of the common man and woman. This story also evidences the beauty of simple, concise and informative language.

The obituary begins and ends with all the important information about the deceased, to name a few: his name, age, profession, family members, time of funeral and of burial. The story, however informative, still manages to pull the reader in with the great details and fond anecdotes that fully re-create the subject and retell his story. For instance, his nickname “Ace Clark,” which the reporter emphasized in the lead, and which also helps make the subject him sound all-American, personable and humble. Other intimate details and habits, like the fact that the subject only missed work day after VJ-Day the U.S.’s victory over japan, when he was too hungover to wake up, expose him as a passionate person who loved his country.

While poignant physical descriptions like: “Powerful arms and shoulders atop spindly legs,” link Ace to his profession, giving the readers a more concrete image of Ace Clark. Another example of a great description that is also quirky, is when Nicholson compares Ace Clark to a “rogue elephant” when the sports team he used to coach were on the court or field. This description in particular, expresses the extent to which he loved sports, and also creates a small shift in tone, which keeps audience engaged and entertained as they increase their feelings of endearment towards Ace Clark.

 

Linnet Myers: Humanity on Trial 

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1994 Southside Chicago

Humanity on Trial is the paragon of how a compelling story can still be very creative, even when its main purpose is to inform readers of what occurs in a specific setting. Myers’ article earns the title of great not just because of the amazing writing and reporting of the piece, but because she managed to capture the big, overarching issues of class, race and of the criminal system in the U.S. by simply informing us on all the small, specific details of the Victims Court in Chicago. These details range from the quotes of people that work in the court, of the lawyers, the accused, the judge, and those that are witnessed or family of victims, to the facts of actual day-to-day cases and of the personal lives of criminals that are accused. For instance, Myers informs the reader of a case where the criminal, Austin, goes by the name “Loveless,” because “his father insisted on him being named that.” This details not only adds a surprise and further engages the reader, but it gives an idea of the life many of these criminals live.

Myers also includes a wide diversity of sources, and quotes, which enrich the story and give it credibility. Quotes range from criminals saying they haven’t done the crime, to an assistant’s state attorney’s opinion of one specific criminal or case, to a judge’s opinions on the validity of his work. She includes the doubts of a Judge Bolan, who works in “26th & Cal.” Who said of his work: “Is the world better for what I’m doing here?” I ask myself, ‘What are you doing, Michael?’” And who described the Victim’s court as: “It’s human nature with all its pretenses slipped away…Headquarters for tales from the dark side.” By adding a quote of how a judge questions the validity of his work, Myers displays the magnitude of the issue, and how it affects everyone in Chicago—no just the accused and the victims.

 

Andrew H. Malcolm: A Thesaurist Leaves, Exits 

Andrew H. Malcom’s article A Thesaursit Leaves, Exits displays how he successfully transformed the conventional style of editorial pieces from just being arguments or opinions to also being stories. It is evident that Macolm spent a lot of his time researching what story he thought was most interesting. Or what subject he thought could, in discussing its life, bring with it general social, economic or political issues or examples of the advancements or faults of a certain topic, into the story. The lead of this story is original and engages the reader with its quirky tone almost immediately. It also answers the who and what, and thus introduces the reader to the story’s the nut-graph. The reporter’s diction and sentence structure throughout the entire story mirror the story’s subject and structure perfectly, as they both highlight use of synonyms and an active, informative tone. The story’s headline is a perfect example of how a headline can both describe a story and capture the attention of readers by being unconventional and creative. It says, “A Thesaurist Leaves, Exits,” infroming the reader who the story is about, that that person can no longer be found and that adjectives are going to be an important aspect to this article.

 

Tommy Tomlinson: A Beautiful Find

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Tommy Tomlinson

One of the elements that makes Tomlinson’s story, A Beautiful Find, stand out as great and as beautiful, is the structure of the story. The examination-like questions that remind the reader of having of breakdown and explain the evidence behind your solution to an equation in high school, help the story successfully introduce its main themes. This form also allows the story to begins with the most important information about the problem that Swallow is trying to solve and of Swallow himself and then flawlessly delve deep into the chronology of the four years that Swallow spent trying to solve the problem. Another element is the style of the story itself, the intricate sentences, beautiful imagery, soft tone and attention to specific details that breath life into an affair that is technical and not very adventurous. For instance, Tomlinson reiterates that Swallow life his left eyebrow over the rim of his glasses and uses this detail as the detail that best exemplifies the curiosity and quirkiness of his subject. The reporter also uses details to express Swallow’s relentless attempts at trying to solve the problem, saying that his subject would “file sheets of paper with equations next to phone numbers for the DMV.” The inclusion of Swallow’s role as the Kitchen Spouse, exemplifies the reporters ability to make his subject complex.

Ultimately, Tomlinson’s biggest achievement is transforming the traditional profile article story from the traditional ‘interesting person’ story into a narrative that follows the failures and successes of one person in pursuit of his goal.

 

Dorothy Thompson: Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion

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Cartoon of Orson Wells radio broadcast

Labeled under “Classics” in an anthology of ‘America’s Best’ Newspaper writing, Dorothy Thompson’s column piece Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion, seeks to understand the rise of fanaticism and increasing mass political hysteria with one significant event.

The event, Orson Welle’s reading of War of the Worlds on air, which she labels as the “the story of the century,”  provides the most understanding of the expansion of fascist movements in Europe. Written in 1938, Thompson perfectly captures the frustrations and confusion of a period that witnesses the destruction of Europe and half the world.

The reporter makes a persuasive argument by putting most important information and claims first. This can be seen in her story structure, as her lead begins with her argument and her many claims and then follows it with information about the incident and precise facts on why Welles famous “hour on the air” lacked any possible scenerios and factual evidence. She also begins each of her paragraphs with a claim and then follows it with evidence to prove her claim. The tone of the piece is dry and sardonic and reinforces the role of journalists as social, media and political analysts. Her story is thorough, and explores not just the answers related to the incident, but the answers to the questions brought on by the event’s repercussions. For instance, Thompson explains her disillusionment with the fact that this mass hysteria encouraged people to ask their government for more protection, since it implied giving the government more control and influence over individuals lives.