In the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, it seems difficult to find an area resident who does not believe mass shootings have become a problem in the United States.
Sue Beeney of Pekin worries that mass shootings have become commonplace to the point where Americans may become desensitized to them.
“It’s just like it’s everyday news,” said Beeney. “It’s like ‘oh, another shooting.’ And that’s bad. Those should be in the forefront, and people should be saying, ‘We need to do something.’”
Greg Newcomb of Pekin blames the problem on a decline in moral values in the United States. Due to the decline in morality, he feels that many Americans feel no hope and resort to violence.
“There should be a better solution,” he said.
Jeremy Farlin of Green Valley concurred with Newcomb that declining moral values are part of the problem, and added that morality has declined because many parents are not instilling those values in their children. He also said a major contributing factor to a culture in which mass shootings have become common occurrences is the accessibility of assault weapons.
“Teenagers seem more disconnected now than ever,” said Farlin. “Parents are just kind of letting them learn on their own. A lot of times, they’re not taught the same values we were. Also, people in this country need weapons for things like hunting and home defense. Recreational shooting is a thing, too, but I don’t think anybody needs a 30-round clip. I don’t think anybody needs bump stocks to make their semi-automatic (weapon) fully automatic.”
As reported in the story “How Tazewell County approaches safety in the mass shooting era,” published in the Friday print edition of the Pekin Daily Times, many public venues in the area seek to deter potential shooters by having controlled entrances. Pekin Community High School holds active shooter drills where law enforcement officials shoot blank rounds in the school. Usually, PCHS students weren't present for the drills. This school year, they will be. Beeney believes active shooter drills with students present is a positive development because they prepare students as well as school faculty and staff.
“The students will know what to expect and what to do if it happens,” she said. “And the chances of it happening are rather high, I suppose.”
Newcomb agreed with Beeney that preparing students by having them present for intruder drills is an effective strategy.
“If there is, Heaven forbid, a situation where we have a problem like that at our local schools, it’s better that the students be prepared,” he said. “Being prepared means going through the training process and being able to react correctly and speedily to a threat, versus assuming that will occur properly without proper training.”
Farlin believes intruder drills with students present are potentially effective because they will better train not only students, but faculty and staff, for actual emergencies.
“If it’s a drill, it needs to be as real as it can be,” he said.
Farlin said controlled entrances at public venues are productive because, he claimed, they tend to deter armed intruders.
“You’re going to catch people at the door,” Farlin said. “But if (potential shooters) know that’s already at the facility, they tend not to even go.”
Beeney also believes controlled entrances are a good preventive measure. However, she also believes secure public venues only address part of the problem.
“It’s not the end-all,” she said. “But it probably controls (the problem) a little bit more.”
Beeney said a more proactive public mind-set would further help alleviate the recent prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S.
“I think there has to be a better way to get the ‘if you see something, say something,’ message out there,” she said. “If it doesn’t look right, say something.”
Newcomb believes the recent outbreak of mass shooting incidents points to a need for a culture change in the U.S. Like Beeney, he appears to think that Americans are becoming or have become desensitized to violence.
“I think we’re going to have to have something where (violence) becomes so reprehensible in our society when something like this is done,” said Newcomb. “Perhaps that will change the mind-set of people who do this.”