The Smoking Gun

Bringing awareness to firearm safety

On January 31st, across Omaha, adults return to their homes exhausted from their seemingly never-ending work day, which is about to get longer.

Lazily, they sprawl out on their couches and flick on the news to see large words flash across their pixelated screens, reading “Breaking News: Omaha Police Kill Gunman Inside Target at 178th & Center”, as the image of a Target store appears in the background. 

Their chests pounding and their palms sweaty, their shaky fingers barely press the right keywords in Safari to search for more information on the attack. 

They scour the internet in hope that no bystanders were hurt, the only thought running through their heads being: how could this have happened? 

If there are laws in place to protect us from this terror, why do these kinds of tragedies continue to occur in our lives?

Gun safety isn’t spoken about enough in a progressive manner and for that reason and others, it’s crucial we inform ourselves about the topic.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that promotes firearm safety awareness, every day, on average, 316 people in America sustain injuries from gun violence, ranging from attacks to unintentional accidents. 

The Gun Violence Archive states that there were 647 mass shootings in 2022 and 692 in 2021, marking the most fatal year since the Gun Violence Archive began tracking mass shootings in 2014. These onslaughts can happen anywhere, from malls, stores, schools, and other public places. 

Either way, these stats pose the overwhelming, but valid inquiries, what gun safety rules are there? How effective are they? What is gun safety? 

Joseph Jones, the man who opened fire at the West Omaha Target store on Jan. 31st, 2023, had been repeatedly admitted into several psychiatric institutions for schizophrenia and paranoia, as reported by Jones’ uncle. Therefore, he was in no shape to bear ownership of a gun. 

Federal law states that it is unlawful to buy a firearm from or sell a firearm to someone that has previously been “adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution,” as worded in the law description.

Jones had been mentally “defective,” to say the least.

Recent local traumas like the Target shooting and teen Blake Miller’s gun mishandling incident have exposed major gaps in the arms control system on the federal and state level.

On March 12, 2022, 18-year-old Blake Miller was “messing around” and consuming alcohol with his best friend, Tanner Farrell, and three other friends. They were at Miller’s residence when Miller allegedly grabbed a gun left unlocked in his room, pointed the gun at Farrell’s chest, and pulled the trigger, believing it was unloaded. 911 was called by one of the boys at the scene, but it was too late. 

Farrell later died in a hospital. 

The question that now arises is: how did Miller have such easy access to a gun, especially under alcoholic influence?

Also, why did Jones have a gun in the first place, with his history of mental troubles? 

While the US has laws like the Gun-Free School Zones Act to prevent school shootings, and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act that declares 21 years of age the minimum to purchase a gun, it’s clear that they aren’t enough because of the occurrences of gun violence we’ve seen in Omaha recently. 

It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and others about gun safety laws and what’s going on in our city. Staying alert is key. 

Any person with access to a mobile device and the internet can find tips to keep you and your loved ones safe from firearm threats. Doing this can help prevent terrifying tragedies no one wants to go through. 

If we look after one another and respect the environment we share, mothers will stop living in fear that their children won’t return from hangouts with friends at the Target store nearby or from their trusted best friend’s house.

Guns have many uses, and while the one the common American population is familiar with is recreational use, that doesn’t take away from the true dilemma of armed violence in the world around us. 

Aldous Huxley, an acclaimed English writer, once said, “facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” 

The stats speak the facts– that has been proven. Now, how will we stop ignoring the situation at hand?