Palmquist: Growing up in an era of domestic terrorism

On Dec. 14, 2012, I came home from my seventh grade class’ field trip to OMSI to learn that an elementary school in Connecticut had been attacked by a shooter. Twenty-six students and teachers were dead and many more were injured. It was a horrifying thing to hear about at just twelve years old. My parents talked to me about what happened and showed my brother and I extra love and attention that evening. The next day, we went about our lives normally, and it never crossed my mind that something so horrific could happen again.

Unfortunately, it did happen again. And again. Sites of mass shootings became common knowledge as the shootings became more and more frequent. A few of them stood out in my mind. Roseburg. Aurora. San Bernardino. Parkland. Orlando. Las Vegas. In high school, my classmates and I were introduced to lockdown drills where we would prepare for an active-shooter scenario. We locked the doors, closed the blinds, turned off the lights and hid in the least visible areas of our classrooms until the principal would announce over the PA system that we could resume class. After one lockdown drill, my friend texted me, saying she had just had a panic attack in the girls’ locker room because she thought an active shooter situation was actually happening. She never got the memo about the drill. 

Today I am 19. In my lifetime, there have been roughly 83 mass shootings in the U.S, including this month’s shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Nothing seems to be stopping these horrific acts of violence. 

Meanwhile, death tolls keep climbing and the lives of victims and their families continue to be affected. It has become normal to turn on the news in the morning and hear about another shooting. It does not alarm me as much as it used to, and that terrifies me. 

Lack of action has led to familiarity in situations of domestic terrorism, and that needs to change, starting with the laws that allow such events to occur. Currently, only six states and the District of Columbia have banned the sale of semiautomatic weapons, like the ones used in the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton. In spite of the fact that more mass shootings continue to happen in states with less restrictive gun laws, the U. S. and its leadership continues to ignore the issue at hand by doing little to enforce gun control nationwide. To decrease events of domestic terrorism, the U. S. needs to take responsibility for the impact of the sale of semiautomatic weapons and ban them altogether, while also enforcing background checks for the sale of all firearms. 

The  U.S. has failed remarkably to take national legislative action in favor of protecting its citizens from domestic terrorism. Consider New Zealand; after the March 15 shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand’s parliament voted almost unanimously to change gun laws and ban assault rifles in the nation. At a national service for the victims of the Christchurch shootings, prime minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the racism which fuelled the terrorist attacks and encouraged citizens to make New Zealand “the place that we wish to be.”

“Racism exists, but it is not welcome here,” Ardern said at the service. “An assault on anyone who practices their faith or religion is not welcome here.”

Unlike Ardern, President Trump has failed to constructively comment on the racism which fuelled the attack in El Paso. While he did condemn the racism and bigotry behind the attack, he failed to acknowledge the impact of his own influence on the El Paso terrorists’ motives.

In a manifesto posted just 19 minutes before the Walmart shooting, the shooter argued that white people in America were being replaced by foreigners and that getting “rid of enough people” would make Americans’ way of life more sustainable. The shooter also took the stance on immigration that has been supported by Trump that immigrants are taking American jobs. Instead of commenting on the way his anti-immigration sentiments influenced the shooter, Trump largely blamed violence in video games and in the media for perpetuating domestic terrorism. Meanwhile, according to psychology professor Douglas Gentile of Iowa State State University,  studies have failed to find any link between violence in the media and violent crime. 

As for the need for legislation addressing stricter gun control, Trump tweeted “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying with desperately needed immigration reform.”

It is positive that Trump acknowledged the need for the instatement of background checks for purchases of fire-arms. However, the attachment of immigration reform to gun control legislation obscures the real issue at hand. In the case of the El Paso shooting, immigrants were not the terrorists. The shooter was explicitly targeting immigrants. The immigrants were the ones who were in danger, and stricter gun legislation might have prevented that. Immigrants were not the problem; the shooter and his easy access to a gun were. 

Generations of Americans are currently growing up in a nation where their safety is threatened. Normal outings like going to a movie theater for a late night showing, stopping at Walmart to pick up snacks, or even walking into a school building hold the potential for danger. As a nation, we owe it to the future generations of Americans to protect them from events of domestic terrorism. And to do that, we have to take responsibility for our lack of action against mass shootings and move forward to create legislation that can prevent them.