Between January 1, 2021 and April 21, 2021, there have been 156 mass shooting in the U.S. according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks and provides accurate information about the number of deaths and injuries from gun violence in the U.S. (A mass shooting is defined as one in which at least four people are killed, not including the shooter.)
Colorado has had a long and sad history of mass shootings going back to the tragedy that occurred at Columbine High School in 1999 to the most recent shooting that took place at a King Soopers in Boulder last month. While I could go into several years of data and statistics, legal arguments and heart-wrenching tales, I wanted to give voice to the people of Lyons. So I took to the streets of town to see how locals are feeling about these devastating events. I asked each interviewee the same three questions: How have the mass shootings made you feel? What do you think could have prevented it? How would you move forward?
I first spoke with Steve Dewart on the corner of Main Street and 4th Avenue. The beautiful day was in sharp contrast to the somber subject we discussed. When asked about the shootings that were taking place, locally and nationally, he found them “deeply troubling and sad, but not surprising given the resistance we’ve had to taking any action politically.” Dewart stated that he hopes these senseless acts will “be a tipping point that changes our laws and requirements around purchasing guns. I guess what I’m hoping is that if the Boulder tragedy was part of that tipping-point catalyst, to actually deal with it, then I’m at least taking that out of the whole experience. Otherwise, it’s just senseless and tragic.”
Next, I sat down to have a chat with Jules Fischer-White and Mia Kamerling in front of the Barking Dog Cafe. When posed with my questions, Fischer-White grimaced and said, “I feel awful. I feel ashamed sometimes to even be an American since we’re pretty much the only civilized nation that still has mass shootings. But I don’t think there is any easy solution.” While he opines gun control could be a good thing, he feels that gun owners have strong views opposing any gun control, and that “there are so many people with guns that it would be difficult to control that,… so I don’t know of any solution.”
Mia Kamerling, 19, identifies with Fischer-White. “I was in Boulder when it [the shooting] was happening, just a block or two away. The store I was in went into lockdown; and I noticed in myself and the other teenagers that were in the store that there was a lack of panic, and I think it’s because of how much we actually practiced going through the motion of having a school shooter… We are used to it, it’s normal at this point,” Kamerling laments, “I still think that gun control would be good but I agree with Jules that it’s such a difficult thing to approach right now”.
Fischer-White proposed the best place to start would be with complete gun law reform and a closing of all the “loophole,” pointing out the loophole that allowed the Boulder shooter to have his weapon registered as a pistol, but then have an arm brace that turned it into a rifle. In addition, they think having a standardized, national test to possess a fire arm, similar to one given to obtain a driver’s license, is a good step forward.
While going past St. Vrain Market, I met Bernadette Jeffery. During the interview I could see her starting off with one thought, and then I could see this look forming on her face. It was as if she was finally hearing herself speak on the issue and decided that she didn’t completely like how she sounded and came to a broader conclusion. She is of the opinion that “we [the U.S.] need to deal more with people who have mental health issues, and if they are going to buy guns, there has to be a better way for them [gun sellers] to recognize these things if there’s signs of something happening.” Jeffery also felt that parents play a role in foiling future shootings. “if you know your child has an issue, you need to make that known and make sure that the authorities know.” Jeffery feels that the best way to achieve this is by first changing the way that mental health is viewed in this country, and removing the stigma that those who come forward face.
I met Cole Galloway as he was snacking on lunch on Main Street. We discussed his views on the problem this country seems to have with mass shootings. “I’m heart broken and angry” began Galloway. “Everybody [I know] goes there [to that King Sooper]”. While he does not have a concrete way to prevent future devastation, he believes that a huge factor in what causes these shootings to occur is a culture of toxic masculinity in our society. “[We] have a huge problem with toxic masculinity and the fact that men cannot show their emotions in our society, paired with the fact of militarism and police violence and huge amounts of stress in our society. Obviously, we need some amount of gun control, but I think dealing with mental health aspects and getting people away from this concept that the only emotion you’re allowed to show is anger… letting boys feel feelings… would solve a lot of that.” Galloway feels that boys are taught to only express their anger through violence. “Everybody feels anger, but if you don’t let yourself feel your emotions as anything other than anger and violence, that’s a terrible way to live.” Galloway is happy to be transgender and didn’t have to grow up with toxic masculinity; and he is able to integrate his masculinity with emotional intelligence. He did, however, express that it is “scary to live in the world and see how men are represented, and on some level, it is hard to choose to be a man in a world like this, but there are ways to be a good man, and I strive to do that.”
While the Lyons residents I spoke with all agreed the shootings plaguing this country are both horrific and sorrowful, they had different ideas on how to move forward and prevent mass shooting in the future. While views varied on whether gun legislation reform or mental health reform was more important, it was acknowledged that reform, nonetheless, is required in this country.
See Previous articles: Person on the Street: New Year’s Resolutions. and Person on the Street: Valentine’s Day
Editor’s Note: These articles are Opinion Pieces and do not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper, the editor, or the staff.