‘I Wish We Could Stop Teaching This.’ What It’s Like to Attend an Active-Shooter Training After the El Paso and Dayton Attacks

‘I Wish We Could Stop Teaching This.’ What It’s Like to Attend an Active-Shooter Training After the El Paso and Dayton Attacks

It’s the first weekend since school began here in central Virginia, and approximately 10 children and 15 adults are spending their Saturday in a 900-square foot room with bright yellow walls and foam floor tiles, learning how to survive an active-shooter situation.

Gun Violence Archive, a widely cited nonprofit that counts incidents in which at least four people other than the shooter were injured or killed.’ data-reactid=”20″>It’s a morbid assortment of pointers, but ones that many believe are necessary to learn amid the U.S.’s mass-shooting epidemic. So far in 2019, there’s been an average of more than one mass shooting per day, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a widely cited nonprofit that counts incidents in which at least four people other than the shooter were injured or killed.

Centers for Disease and Control, about 24,000 of those were suicides. Based on the Gun Violence Archive’s methodology, only 437 died as a result of mass shootings that same year.’ data-reactid=”24″>Still, the odds of dying in a mass shooting remain low. Though 39,773 people in the U.S. died from gun-related injuries in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease and Control, about 24,000 of those were suicides. Based on the Gun Violence Archive’s methodology, only 437 died as a result of mass shootings that same year.

But the attendees at Burns’s training are determined to prepare for the worst. Allison Szuba, the director of an adult care center in central Virginia, says gun violence is a problem that’s always on her mind. She says she’s seen situations in which disgruntled family members come into nursing facilities with the intention of hurting others. “I am sad about it, but I’m also not gonna put my head in the sand,” she says of her decision to attend this and other COBRA classes. “I would much rather be on the front line protecting folks than saying, ‘Oh, I hope it doesn’t happen to us.’”

Although Szuba thinks individuals should take steps to protect themselves, she’d also like politicians to enact sensible background-check laws. “It’s our responsibility to talk to politicians, voice our concerns, and vote them out if they’re not doing the job that they’re hired to do,” she says, adding that she’s a firm believer in the Second Amendment. “I have no problem with somebody background-checking me. If you have a problem with that, you probably shouldn’t have a gun.”

Denise Kennedy brought her two young sons, Carl, 6, and Louis, 5, with her to Burns’s lesson. Kennedy has been bringing Carl to such classes since he was 4. Though he has autism, and sometimes reacts negatively in the presence of loud noises, Kennedy said the risk of discomfort during gunfire simulations was worth it.

“My thought process was that we could work through this now, in a safe setting, versus if he were to totally freeze in a bad setting,” she says. Luckily, the noises did not upset Carl, and Kennedy says he has been able to use what he’s learned in Burns’s classes to stay safe on the playground and when a stranger approached him in their neighborhood.

Though Kennedy says gun violence is a problem, she doesn’t believe legislative action is the answer. “You can hide all the weapons you want,” she says. “They’re still going to get their hands on something.”

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