Target shooting begs the question, when is enough enough?

Politicians need to take gun control, safety more seriously- do their jobs better

Infographic by Kaitlyn Lisko.

Three days ago, Jan. 31, around 12 p.m. the Omaha police department got reports of an active shooter situation in Target on 178th and West Center Road. Thirty-two-year-old Joseph Jones walked into the store with an AR-15 he had bought at Cabela’s four days before the shooting. Jones also had 13 loaded magazines in his possession. He was shot and killed by officer Brian Vanderheiden at the scene. No other people were hurt. Shoppers and employees in the store at the time were left traumatized after being forced to hide or flee from the store. This was a scarily close call for the Omaha community.

Republican Congressman, Representative Don Bacon is being criticized by the public for his reaction to the incident.  He made a post correcting a user about the AR-15’s capabilities saying, “M-16s have automatic capabilities, AR-15s do not.”

Ari Kohnen of Lincoln, Neb. is one Twitter user who criticized Bacon saying, “Well that ought to make all the traumatized people feel better; thanks, Congressman!” in a direct reply to Bacon’s Tweet.

Bacon’s immediate response was inappropriate, even if he was correct. It was too soon, and very insensitive. What he, and other politicians need to realize is that gun violence is a problem in not just Omaha, but our whole country. It’s their job to introduce legislation to protect us from it and they need to take it seriously. The Omaha Target shooting, while substantial for us in Omaha, is minuscule portion of the gun violence that’s happened in this country so far this year.

Tweet posted by Representative Don Bacon on Jan. 31.

There have been 54 mass shootings so far in 2023 and it’s only 33 days into the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an American nonprofit group that catalogs every incident of gun violence in the United States. Additionally, they report that there were a total of 647 mass shootings last year and that 44,000 people lost their lives to guns. The level of shootings that America faces is more than most countries in the world.

On Jan. 6, a six-year-old student brought a gun to school and shot his teacher in Newport News, Va. 15 days later, 12 people were killed in a shooting that occurred in Monterey Beach, Calif. as the community was gathering to celebrate the lunar new year at the Lai Lai Ballroom. Two days later, two children were shot and killed in Des Moines, Iowa at a youth outreach center. That same day seven people were killed at two connected shootings in Half Moon Bay, Calif. in what was described as an incident of workplace violence. Hitting closer to home, just three days after that a fourth grade student brought a loaded gun to Milliken Park elementary in Fremont, Neb. Five days after that the Target shooting occurred. These are just a few examples of the outrageous number of shootings that have happened this year, and the first month just ended.

At this point the question is not if another shooting will occur, it’s when. Violence is all around us. It floods our social media feeds and fills our news organizations’ homepages.

The truth is that events of this magnitude and frequency don’t happen in any other country. According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher than any other high-income country. In the United States an eighteen-year-old can go to the store and buy a firearm but can’t buy a bottle of alcohol, a pack of cigarettes or enter a casino. In 28 out of 50 states an eighteen-year-old can buy a handgun and in all 50 states they can buy a shotgun, including Nebraska. The logic behind this is extremely flawed and dangerous.

This harmful rhetoric is something we see from lawmakers defending their right to own guns every day. They defend a “constitutional right” that was written in the 1700s when the only weapons they had were muskets and pistols. We shouldn’t be following the advice of a document that was written over 200 years ago.

Politicians sending “thoughts and prayers” to communities facing crisis isn’t something that cuts it anymore. What America needs to stop the violence that riddles our communities is stricter gun laws, the ban of assault rifles and mental health resources that are easy to seek out. Mass shooters aren’t born evil, they’re made that way through their environment, and they can be caught early and prevented from inflicting pain on their communities if resources are more accessible.

What’s truly disturbing is how many of these shootings could’ve been prevented had there been stricter gun laws. Purchasing a gun should not be an easy process in any way. It should include a lengthy background check, mental health evaluation, consultations with loved ones and more. Obtaining a driver’s license requires more paperwork than purchasing a gun does.

Assault rifles are mostly semi-automatic, meaning that after the chamber is empty the gun reloads itself. These include AR-15s, guns that are commonly used in mass shootings like the Uvalde massacre in May, the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 and the Target shooting. Military grade weapons like these need to be banned.

I don’t support any type of gun usage at all. Buying a firearm for “protection” shouldn’t be something that people feel the need to do. Having guns in the house, even just for hunting, can be a danger to kids who don’t know any better and other people who might have ill intentions. A gun is still a gun even if it’s intended purpose isn’t harmful. If a child got their hands on a loaded gun in the house, there can be severe consequences. We saw these repercussions in the shooting in Newport News. Requiring guns to be safely locked away should be a law, but it isn’t in Nebraska.

In some countries like the United Kingdom, police officers don’t even carry guns regularly. Obviously, America can’t go that far yet. This simply shows how much violence plagues the U.S. in comparison to the rest of the world. People shouldn’t have to worry about going to the grocery store or sitting in English class and getting shot. Gun violence is one of the few things that happens even more often than we hear about it.

Americans are so desensitized to these acts of violence that when one happens, we barely bat an eye. I encourage you to take a step back, look at the statistics and realize that this is not normal. Our country should not be dealing with this daily. Something must change, and the only way to get something done about it is to make our opinion heard loud and clear. Everyone has a voice, and everybody should use that power as much as they can. Gun violence is not okay and will never be okay.

My call to action is this: Congress must ban all assault rifles and semi automatic rifles in every state, and Omaha needs to respond with legislative action to the Target shooting immediately. Enough is enough and our country can’t keep putting our people in danger. Call your local political leaders and tell them exactly how you feel about this issue.

Senator Deb Fischer

Representative Don Bacon

Mayor Jean Stothert’s hotline: 402-444-5555