By Grace Zani and Taylor Rice
Recently, there have been two major incidents of gun violence that took place in the United States. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shooting happened on January 6, 2017, where Esteban Santiago, United States veteran, bought a one-way ticket from Alaska to Florida with a firearm and two magazines. According to USA Today, he retrieved his luggage, loaded the weapon in a bathroom, and opened fire. Five individuals lost their lives and six were wounded in the process. Bryan Santiago, the shooter’s brother, claimed that Esteban “was behaving differently when he returned from Iraq” and “sometimes couldn’t control his anger.” Esteban Santiago was previously admitted to a psychiatric institute after claiming he heard voices and that the government was controlling his mind. His gun was taken away from him while he was evaluated, but given back the next month, prior to the shooting. Santiago faces a maximum penalty of death and his trial is being held at a later date. This shooting was one of the most recent acts of violence with a firearm, but these acts will continue to happen until new laws are set.
The other incident that took place in June 17, 2015, was the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. According to Charleston police, Chief Greg Mullen stated that Roof attended the historic African-American church service for an hour before he opened fire, killing nine innocent people. Before Roof went through with this act of violence, he had a negative view of African-Americans. Roof’s friend, Joey Meek, told CNN that Roof discussed the return of segregation and vague plans “to start a race war…he wanted it to be white with white and black with black”. Recently, Roof was found guilty on all thirty-three counts in federal court trial and ultimately sentenced to death. According to CNN, “Roof also faces 13 charges in South Carolina, including nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a handgun during the commission of a violent crime”. This act of violence was a hate crime against African-Americans. Judy Woodruff, of PBS, noted that “Roof is the first person sentenced to die for a federal hate crime.” While Roof has been found guilty and sentenced to death by the federal court, he still has to go to trial in South Carolina.
Could these incidents have been prevented? Both Barack Obama and Jeb Bush had opinions about gun laws after the Charleston Church incident. Obama claimed “that insufficient gun laws were partially to blame. Once again innocent people were killed because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun”. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said, “gun control would not prevent another Charleston style massacre” and that it would be more efficient to check and identify “potentially dangerous individuals before they commit a similar crime than universal restrictions. Changes must be made involving gun laws if we want to decrease the amount of shootings and gun violence. What current laws do we have and what should be set in order to protect innocent people from gun violence?
Read more about this issue in the next article that will appear in this series.
Header photo from The Daily Beast