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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt community reacts to recent incidents of gun violence

Government officials, faculty and students have taken action to prevent future mass shootings following an increased number of crimes involving guns.
Emery Little
Walkways on campus, as photographed on Sept. 12, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Content warning: mentions of gun violence

With 147 mass shootings reported in the U.S. since January, government officials as well as Vanderbilt faculty and students are taking collective action. 

Vanderbilt College Democrats President Isabella Randle said that recent gun violence has been distressing and traumatic for her. 

“The sheer extent of gun violence in the U.S. and the fact that gun violence has essentially become commonplace in our country is especially heartbreaking and concerning,” Randle said. 

Representatives of Vanderbilt College Republicans and Vanderbilt Young Democratic Socialists of America did not respond to The Hustler’s requests for comment. 

Vanderbilt Faculty

Director of Vanderbilt’s Department of Medicine, Health and Society Jonathan Metzl recently published research with Assistant Professor Tara McKay and University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Piemonte on possible solutions for gun violence. In an interview with The Hustler, he described the importance of political leaders working together to address the issue.

“Gun violence is an urgent public health problem, but it’s also a political problem,” Metzl said. “We really have to fix the political problem if we want to fix the public health problem.”

Metzl and his colleagues have previously investigated discrepancies between media coverage of shooters of different races. 

“For too long multiple-victim shootings that happen in the suburbs are called mass shootings, but if it happens in South Nashville we call it a gang shooting,” Metzl said. “We need to see that all gun violence is really part of the same ecosystem.” 

Metzl, McKay and Piemonte also seek to address gun violence by obtaining a better understanding of how Americans understand guns and gun violence. Their investigation of public opinion states that many Americans believe the source of gun violence to be the failure of mental health institutions to identify “dangerous individuals.” 

However, Metzl, McKay, and Piemonte find that mental health diagnoses are not a comprehensive solution to gun violence. They instead propose a five-step agenda that includes constructing antiracist gun research and intervention, investigating social and political determinants of gun violence, engaging communities to address the issue and improving public understanding of guns and gun violence.

“Researchers and clinicians should remain wary of assumptions that acts of mass violence are driven primarily by diagnosable psychopathology, and should instead situate destructive motivations within larger social structures and cultural scripts,” their research report reads. 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

On April 12, a mass shooting was reported at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Per the U.S. News report, a police officer was wounded in this incident and the shooter, a student at the school, was killed. Following the shooting, Lee held a press conference in which he encouraged the public to pray for those affected by the shooting. 

The shooting came four days after Lee signed a permitless gun carry bill into law, making Tennessee the 19th state to pass such a bill. It will take effect on July 1, 2021, and will allow most adults over the age of 21 to carry handguns without a permit in the state of Tennessee. The bill does not apply to felons, anyone convicted of stalking or domestic violence and anyone that a court has committed to a mental institution.  

Vanderbilt prohibits the possession of guns on campus by anyone other than on-duty police officers. The university announced that this rule will not change in the wake of Tennessee’s permitless gun carry bill.

Metzl expressed disappointment that the bill passed and predicted that it will lead to more deaths due to gun violence. 

“It’s a disaster,” Metzl said. “It flies in the face of everything we know about what keeps communities safe.” 

Randle expressed similar sentiments, saying that she is saddened, but not surprised to see the bill pass. She predicted that it will lead to increased gun violence in Tennessee. 

“Both citizens and lawmakers alike were opposed to this law which will undoubtedly increase community violence, domestic violence, mass shootings and suicides by firearm,” Randle said. “When more people can carry guns without a permit, more people will be shot and killed.” 

President Joe Biden

In a March 8 speech, Biden announced six executive orders intended to limit gun violence in the country, including a federal red-flag law and a rule addressing ghost guns. Per Biden, red-flag laws allow family members and police officers to petition a court to remove firearms from the possession of someone who is a danger to themselves or others. 

“[Ghost guns] are homemade, built from a kit that includes the directions on how to finish the firearm,” Biden said in a press conference. “They have no serial numbers, so when they show up at a crime scene, they can’t be traced.”

Randle said that, while these executive orders are a positive change, more concrete steps toward comprehensive gun reform are necessary. Randle added that she thinks that Biden needs the support of Congress to meaningfully address gun violence. 

“Congress doesn’t have the numbers needed to pass these common-sense gun laws that we really need,” Randle said. “States like Tennessee and Texas are making things worse by using their authority to make guns easier to carry.” 

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About the Contributors
Sally Johnson
Sally Johnson, Former Staff Writer
Sally Johnson ('22) is from Franklin, Tennessee, and is majoring in political science and English with a minor in Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. She can be reached at [email protected].
Emery Little
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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