Boulder, Colorado: a tiny, college town known for its beautiful mountains and good weather. That all changed when a gunman opened fire on one of its two King Soopers grocery stores, killing customers, several employees and a Boulder police officer in the attack.
Boulder is now known as the site of another one of Colorado’s mass shootings, a state that has been rocked by several of them over the years. From the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 to the recent shooting in Boulder, many of these attacks were done in retaliation or were the result of the attacker’s mental illness.
“Everyone says that Boulder is a bubble, and it’s one hundred percent true, and the bubble burst,” said Madeline Trujillo, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder.
Trujillo, who now lives in Denver, said that many people in the community regard Boulder as being a safe town, but that the shooting has caused them to rethink those sentiments. She said that she first became aware of the shooting after receiving a text from her former university that there was an active shooter at the King Soopers.
“It was this weird, very bland text that was just like, ‘ACTIVE SHOOTER AT KING SOOPERS. STAY AWAY.’”
She said that she immediately texted family and friends to warn them and make sure they were safe. She has shopped at that very King Soopers before and once she heard that people had died, she became worried that she would know some of the victims.
“I know exactly the layout of the store — the employees were familiar faces,” she said.
Ultimately, she didn’t know any of the victims personally but said that one of the employees who died looked familiar to her.
Despite the shooting hitting so close to home, Trujillo’s thoughts on preventing future mass shootings are similar to the three Asian American students at the University of Memphis – who were interviewed for a previous story published in the Daily Helmsman – who, even in the aftermath of an attack that left six women of their community dead, are not echoing the calls of gun law reform by political leaders.
“I don’t know if gun reform would really get rid of the crazies who have the guns,” she said.
Trujillo expressed frustration that the shooter acquired his weapons legally, stating that even with the current background check system, he managed to pass, despite a history of paranoia and aggression. What causes mass shootings and moreover, how to prevent them, is a complex issue that is void of a single, one-size-fits-all solution.
One Memphis crime prevention veteran, however, shared his thoughts on the attack and how to stop future ones from happening.
Bill Gibbons – executive director of the Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis and president of the Memphis Crime Commission – said that, although his views do not reflect those of the organizations that he works with, his personal opinion is that red flag laws are one way to stop future attacks.
“I think it’s important for people to report when they either see something or hear something that may be suspicious,” Gibbons said.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders, otherwise known as red flag laws, are court orders that allow a temporary confiscation of weapons from individuals who are determined to be a risk to their own safety or the safety of others. While it varies by state, these laws outline certain groups that are allowed to petition the court for a confiscation order. Usually, these groups include family members and law enforcement. Eighteen states currently have these laws in place, including Colorado. However, Tennessee is not one of them.
Gibbons also said that closing background check loopholes is another key to preventing future mass shootings. One infamous loophole is known as the “Charleston loophole.”
This loophole allows firearms dealers to proceed with the sale of a firearm to a customer if that customer’s background check has not come back within three days, demonstrating that they are legally allowed to own a firearm. If the dealer finds out later that the customer should not have been sold the firearm, the case is referred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) which is then tasked with confiscating the weapon.
While the firearms dealer is not forced to complete the sale if they have not received the background check within three days, a CBS article, published Feb. 4, reported that there were 5,807 cases of firearms sales to persons who are legally barred from owning them that were referred to the ATF last year.
Gibbons and the Memphis Crime Commission have also helped to organize community walks against gun violence which have attracted around 500 people on average.
“They are a statement that the public does not find the situation acceptable and that the public wants action from those in a position to take action,” Gibbons said.
The next walk is slated for Saturday, April 24, at 10 a.m., beginning and ending at the MLK Prep Academy at 1530 Dellwood Ave.