President Obama addresses underlying problems behind San Bernardino attacks

December 12, 2015

President Obama delivered a speech addressing terrorism and gun control in the Oval Office last Sunday, shortly after attacks in San Bernardino, California left 14 dead and 21 wounded.

In San Bernardino, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook attacked a holiday party organized by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health at the Inland Resource Center on Dec. 2.

The county reacted to the attacks by instating a lockdown, and police chased down and killed the shooters later that day. Residents resumed normal work on Dec. 7.

Claudia Doyle, a public health information officer at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, commented on the department’s procedures for such events.

“A lot of our buildings were placed on lockdown for that time immediately following the incident,” Doyle said. “[The shooting] is not an ordinary event; this is the first time that this has ever happened here within our department.”

Obama stated in his speech that, in an effort to combat ISIL, America would continue airstrikes in Iraq and Syria with the help of its allies. It would also continue to train and equip ground forces fighting against ISIL as well as attempt to reach a political resolution in the Syrian civil war.

“[The shooting] was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people,” he said in his speech, which was televised nationally. “The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. Our success won’t depend on tough talk or abandoning our values or giving into fear; instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless.”

Obama also advised that the departments of State and Homeland Security review the visa waiver programs that allowed Malik to enter the country. He emphasized that treating ISIL as a representative of Islam and entering a ground war overseas would both benefit ISIL.

He also laid out a plan for immediate steps that Congress should take to prevent such occurrences. His recommendations included prohibiting people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns, making it harder to obtain powerful weapons, more strictly screening immigrants without visas and voting to continue using military force against ISIL.

“The fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, no matter how effective they are, cannot identify every would-be mass shooter,” Obama said about his proposed gun control measures. “What we can do and must do is make it harder for them to kill.”


Recent shootings reveal normalization of violence

According to Shooting Tracker, there have been 353 shootings this year alone, more attacks than there are days in the year. As the number of these attacks increases, people are becoming increasingly indifferent towards these incidents, a process referred to as the normalization of violence.

Colorado Springs, Colorado:

Last month, Robert Lewis Dear allegedly killed three people and injured 12 in an attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dear held police at a standstill for 5 hours before he surrendered to police once they brought an armored vehicle into the clinic.

A supervisor from the Falcon Division of the Colorado Springs Police Department said that it is difficult to anticipate attacks before they occur, but that the police’s first priority is reducing injuries and casualties.

“We can’t prevent things that we don’t know about, but we do have response strategies,” he said. “It is in the process of being reviewed, but the protocol is to encounter and engage the gunman and prevent him from taking innocent lives.”

Roseburg, Oregon:

In October, Chris Harper Mercer killed nine people and injured seven at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon before being killed by police. Harper Mercer was enrolled in the college and opened fire upon entering one of his classrooms.

Charleston, South Carolina:

In June, Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof had attended a Bible study at the church and then proceeded to carry out his shooting.

Aurora, Colorado:

In July of 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The shooting took place during a theater screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Holmes was arrested outside of the theater.

Newton, Connecticut:

In December of 2012, Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Police also found his mother, Nancy Lanza, dead from a gunshot wound.

Compared to the 14 shootings in 2012, including two which attracted nation-wide attention, the multitude of shootings in 2015 has received less alarm and people are becoming more indifferent towards an event that they now see as an everyday occurrence.

Eagle Scouts learn proper gun safety procedures

After six years of collecting badges, volunteering in the community, and serving as a leader, seniors Naman Jindal and Nikhil Parmar recently became Eagle Scouts, the highest possible achievement from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

As a part of the program, Eagle Scouts may participate in an optional gun training session where the boys are taught how to use, prepare, and maintain guns safely.

“It was different,” Naman said. “I mean I have to restate that we were only shooting at targets so it was in a  very safe, controlled setting.”

If a Scout is part of the merit badge program, they can attain badges for shooting either a rifle or a shotgun accurately as well as simply following the safety procedures necessary in using a gun.

“It’s more of learning how to use them safely than [receiving] a badge,” Naman said. “If you’re in a merit badge program than you can get a badge after completing a bunch of gun safety requirements.

Nikhil agreed and said that one of the first things that Boy Scouts learn when using guns is how to safely handle them.

“They teach you all the safety for it first and then they show you how to shoot, so it’s very hard to mess up,” he said. “And there are people whose jobs it is at those ranges to make sure you don’t mess up.”

Nikhil started by shooting at targets in his backyard with a BB gun, which is easier to use as a child. With more training, he transitioned to bigger guns and smaller targets. He now shoots infrequently at shooting ranges and other highly monitored areas.

Recent attacks in the Planned Parenthood hospital and San Bernardino have sparked renewed discourse over the topic of current gun control laws.

Naman explains that being taught how to use a gun has also taught him how unsafe guns can be and the fatal incidents that could occur when guns are used to harm others.

“I mean definitely it is very dangerous and when they do it in the woods, they do make sure it very safe,” he said. “I do think strong laws are necessary because of the danger that can be caused by guns.”

Nikhil agreed that guns can be dangerous in the hands of those without proper training, but said that when used in certain circumstances they can be safe.

“If you are at a shooting range using a gun, there are people there monitoring you there are very strict rules, and in those circumstances I think it is perfectly okay to use it,” he said. “But in wake of recent events, the most recent being San Bernardino, it is always troubling to hear the things people do.”

Gun control legislation will play a large role in the upcoming presidential election, with candidates already discussing their opinions in speeches and through social media platforms like Twitter.

Violence in film and television: hurting people should never be cute

There is a concept in the movie industry stating that audiences desire to watch two things: sex and violence. In light of the increase of gun violence in the United States, the question of how constructive these subjects are arises.

Films influence society. When Fight Club premiered in 1999, fight clubs, organized through Craigslist, sprouted up throughout the country. In the years following Bambi’s release in 1942, deer hunting decreased by 50 percent in the United States.

The issue lies in situations where films negatively impact society, so when a film or television show presents violence, especially when main characters commit violent acts, it affects the viewer. When a film presents violence in a “romantic” manner, this effect intensifies and further convinces an audience that violence is to be ignored.

Romanticization is the act of turning a negative action into something desired through the implication that it will ultimately result in a positive outcome, it is the portrayal of something as ideal.  

In the first season of American Horror Story, a show known for it’s gory effects, interesting story lines and twisted characters, Tate Langdon, the romantic interest throughout the season for Violet Harmon, is a school shooter and a rapist. He enters his school with a gun and shot countless of his classmates. Later in the season, he tricks Violet’s mother into having intercourse with him, and as a result, impregnates her.

All these qualities, however, are taken lightly by the viewers of the show. As opposed to expressing disgust towards the character, fans create videos demonstrating how to apply his infamous “skull” makeup seen in the scene in which he ruthlessly murders his classmates. Fan art and blogs dedicated to the character crop up like daisies. Tate Langdon quotes suddenly appear on t-shirts, such as “normal people scare me.”

The creators of the show, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, continue to shine a sympathetic light onto the character, painting him as a helpless kid in love. His violence remains ignored, thus idealizing the idea of violence to the wide viewership of the show.

Although violence has become increasingly popular in prime time television, it has been a permanent feature in films from Hitchcock’s Psycho to David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows.   

In Oscar-winning film, Silver Linings Playbook, violence is passively addressed.

The protagonist of the film, Pat Solanto, begins the film in a mental institution due to beating his ex-wife’s lover nearly to death. After he is released, Pat continues to stalk his ex-wife and remains in denial about their divorce. He reacts violently to conflict, from getting involved in a physical altercation with his father to throwing a book out of a window.

Ultimately, his volatile personality is written off as “quirks” that can be ignored in the presence of a romantic relationship.

He writes a note to his love interest, Tiffany. The note contains excuses about his inappropriate behavior and writes off his unhealthy relationship with Tiffany as results of his passion.

This movie creates a paradigm for relationships and a model for what effect violence has on human beings. The film essentially ignores the negativity of Pat’s abuse. Instead, it replaces consequences with love and happy endings for a perpetrator of violence. This creates an impression that there are no moral consequences to certain actions, and can even lead to a desired outcome.

I am a fan of both of these stories, and I am the first to admit that violence is integral to films and television because it has the ability to capture audiences quickly and easily, however, the idealization of it is unacceptable.

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