National Beat Reporter
A 15 year-old high school student opened fire at his school cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, WA, just north of Seattle, on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The assailant shot at five students before turning the gun on himself. The incident left two students injured and four dead, including the shooter.
The assailant has since been identified as Jaylen Fryberg, a popular freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck and a member of the Tulalip Indian Tribe. In the aftermath of the shooting, several students belonging to the Tulalip tribe received threats. The tribe issued a statement condemning Fryberg’s actions but offering support for his family in their time of loss. The statement added that the shooting was “the [act] of an individual, not a family, not a tribe.”
Prior to the shooting, it was announced that Marysville School District was one of three school districts in Washington to be selected for a $10 million dollar federal grant specifically for the purpose of improving mental health services for students.
On an Oct. 26 segment of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring commented on the grant. “[I]t’s a coincidence, but nevertheless, it was something they were thinking of ahead of time. And I think it speaks highly of the district that they saw that as something that they should pay attention to.”
In the Nov. 4 midterm elections, voters in the State of Washington will be deciding between two competing gun background check initiatives. One, Initiative 594, would require background checks for every gun purchase in the state, while the other, Initiative 591, would keep the state government from establishing background checks without a uniform federal standard. Polls from early October demonstrated slightly larger support for background checks, but that support has increased substantially in the wake of the Marysville shooting. A KCTS 9 Washington poll placed support for Initiative 594, mandatory background checks for gun purchases, at 64% with 31% opposed and 3% undecided.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, as of Oct. 24 there have been 87 school shootings since the Dec. 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. This statistic has been met with criticism due to its broad definition of a “school shooting.” In their report, Everytown openly lays out their methodology for defining a school shooting.
“Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts,” said the report. “This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings.”
There was an incident where a man in Iowa killed himself in a high school parking lot in the middle of the night, and another incident where an armed robbery took place on a street that runs through the campus of Marquette University in Wisconsin. Both of these incidents count as school shootings, according to Everytown’s stated methodology, and are included among the list of 87 incidents.
Even though the report has an arguably loose definition of “school shootings”, it should be noted that the May 23, 2014 Isla Vista shooting is not included on Everytown’s list. Technically, the Isla Vista shooting did not occur on campus, therefore it does not qualify as a school shooting.
Less than three weeks after the Isla Vista Shooting, on June 10, 2014, President Barack Obama answered a question on gun control sent via Tumblr by then fourth-year and political science major Nicholas Dineen in a live Q&A moderated by Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp.
Dineen’s question specifically referenced the IV Shooting, and how one of the victims, George Chen, was a first year resident on Dineen’s floor where he served as a Resident Assistant. Dineen’s question asked the President, “What are you going to do? What can we all do?”
President Obama responded by saying, “We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this.” Here, Obama is referring to the Everytown report, which then stood at 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook, which averaged out to about one shooting per week. Obama added that the United States’s “levels of gun violence are off the charts,” and that public opinion would ultimately be the deciding factor in the future of gun legislation in the U.S.
“If public opinion does not demand change in Congress,” he said, “it will not change.”