Down the barrel / by Rish Basu

Chris Lewis ’92 grabbed the steering wheel as he caught a glimpse of the silver pistol.

With his life in danger, he had no choice but to do everything the man with gun asked.

Chris’s instincts told him to make a run for it. But there was one thing that stopped him from doing so: a gun pointed to the back of his head.

One object controlled his every move, decision and sentence.

The man with the gun took Chris and his friends to an old, abandoned set of railroad tracks.

The thoughts of death entered into the 19-year-old’s minds.

The night was never supposed to go like this. This was never supposed to happen.

After almost 20 minutes of driving, Chris brought his CRX to an abrupt stop at the abandoned train station.

A car door burst open as one of his friends exited the door of the car and sprinted for his life into the darkness.

Chris tried to do the same. He made a move toward the handle and was almost out of the car.

But he was too late.

The last thing Chris Lewis ever heard was the cock of the pistol and the pull of a trigger.

Bang.

Chris Lewis’s life ended on June 19, 1993.

***

But the shooting of Chris Lewis isn’t the end of it.

Sandy Hook. Aurora. San Bernardino.

These are just a few of the major, nationwide shootings that have received a large amount of coverage.

These shootings are not too far from penetrating the bubble that surrounds that surrounds 10600 Preston Road.

Chris was shot in south Dallas 23 years ago.

And now, 23 years after, Sara Mutschlecner, a student at University of North Texas, was shot and killed on Jan. 1 while leaving an off-campus a New Year’s Eve party.

And just two weeks ago to the date, three female runners doing their normal 6 a.m. jog were shot at on the intersection of Preston and Royal.

Denton. Dallas. Preston Hollow.

These incidents are inching closer and closer to the school, coming within just a mile away from campus. It is a nationwide epidemic. With 3,065 total gun violence related deaths in 2015, it has sparked polarizing reactions and legislation debates.

It isn’t just a social issue or a political issue.

It’s a matter of life and death.

It’s gun violence.         

For Chris’s brother, John Lewis ‘97, the news of Chris’s death came as a complete shock.

“My brother was murdered when I was a teenager,” John said. “I don’t care what age you are, when something that is taken away from you that is that important, it has an everlasting effect on your life. It’s just a sad, sad event, and you go through that, you will never be the same. I don’t know what to compare it to. I don’t think there is really such a comparison. There’s such a difference in my life, and it is such a profound impact.”

Having gone through such a traumatic experience 23 years ago has given John a completely new perspective and the ability to sympathize with others who have experienced the same horrifying loss of a loved one.

“I can’t imagine being a parent of a child whose kid just went to school, and all of a sudden, he or she doesn’t come home,” John said. “It has such a profound impact on your life. It will change the way you think and the way that you change the world. And the fact that there are so many people out there who have to experience the same thing as me almost makes it hurt worse.”

And given the prevalence of gun violence as a national issue, President Obama announced specific executive actions to be made in order to curb the epidemic in a speech made Jan. 5.

According to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Obama’s recent executive action against gun control will make it harder on those attempting to purchase a firearm.

“The goal is to attempt to do a background check on people who attempt to purchase guns, in order to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible people,” Johnson said. “It affects the federal agencies, the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Arms and Explosives, and the FBI to close loopholes through processes that overhaul the federal background check system.”

The aspect of checking emotionally unstable people trying to purchase weapon gives Johnson a reason to believe that this action will have an impact on the safety of our country.

“We have observed that there are people who are mentally deranged that have killed multiple innocent people without provocation,” Johnson said. “I think a number of people, including me and the President, think that if you do a background check including people who are not emotionally stable at the time, they should not be able to purchase a gun at that time. All kinds of murders can be prevented.”

In addition to the national change in gun laws, there was a considerable change in state gun laws of Texas. As of January 1, 2016, a Texas native can carry any handgun openly or concealed as long as he or she is licensed.

According to Director of Security Dale Hackbarth, there are some frequent misconceptions associated with this law.

“The biggest problem is the misunderstanding of the new law--the perception of the new law,” Hackbarth said. “Nothing has changed of the new law came into effect open carry and people don’t understand exactly what that means. It’s still illegal and prohibited to carry a weapon in all places that was illegal and prohibited before the law. You still need a concealed handgun license to carry it open. That’s where it gets all bogged down and confused, but nothing has changed.”

For Hackbarth, the open and concealed laws can elicit different reactions. Even though people convicted of a crime cannot acquire a weapon even with a license, Hackbarth is concerned with the danger involved with the open carry laws.

“If you pass a test you should be able to carry it concealed,” Hackbarth said. “But there’s some evil people out there. If they see a weapon that somebody’s carrying and they’re having a bad day: evil people do evil things. I am in favor of the concealed weapon, just not the open weapon.”

In essence, the new Texas laws change your “concealed handgun license” into a “license to carry”. But it is still illegal to carry in places like schools, churches and government buildings. Anything that was illegal before January 1st is still illegal by the law.

Regardless, Hackbarth acknowledges the opinions of those advocating gun reform but realizes that it can never be entirely prevented.

“Some people feel that taking away guns can stop violence,” Hackbarth said. “I still think there will be violence there. It is a felony to posses and sell drugs, but people still do it and there’s a black market for it. So if you take away guns, there will be a black market in which anyone can get guns. Evil people who have intent to hurt people, they don't need guns. They will use another method. So I don't think guns kill. People kill.”

Chief of Police for Dallas ISD, Craig Miller, thinks that the open carry law does not drastically change the likelihood of a mass shooting occurring.

“Unfortunately, when Texas on Jan. 1 went to open carry, we were one of only six states in the country that don't already have open carry,” MIller said. “I know there is a lot of predictions of doom and gloom, but the facts are that you don't hear of anywhere around the country of incidents happening of necessarily open carry. So at this point we are 21 days into this year and I'm unaware of any incidents that are directly related to open carry.”

Miller feels more than anything, the open carry law has contributed to a spike of the population’s fear of a mass shooting.

“Most of the people who have committed mass murders in our country are in possession of guns legally,” Miller said. “The fact really is that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to be involved in a school shooting.”

In addition to the Open Carry Act being applied to Texas in general, the act will apply to Texas public college campuses in August 2016. Senior Kent Broom will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall and has mixed feelings toward the inclusion of college campuses into the parameters of the act.

“When it comes to gun control,” Broom said, “I'm not a big fan of limiting people on how they use guns. But, when it comes to something like campus carry, I don’t know how I’d feel with a classmate right next to me with a gun.”

Senior Ammar Plumber has yet to select a college to attend but has the University of Texas at Austin in his list of choices. His decision to attend the university isn’t affected by the inclusion of the campus carry act because he believes the occurrences of school shootings are more rare than common.

“I know that most students do not feel the need to carry guns on campus,” Plumber said, “but it would be slightly different if I knew that there were people actually holding guns. A shooting happened not too long again at UT, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had guns there. But those shootings are so rare that it wouldn’t be a very prominent factor on my decision to attend UT. Those sorts of shootings are the exception rather than the rule.”

The multiple mass shootings that have occurred in the past years have incited fear in our society, causing an increase in demand of gun control measures to be taken by our government. According to Hackbarth, this fear is natural, but it can be alleviated through education on gun laws.

“Everyone is afraid of the unknown,” Hackbarth said. “People are getting scared of the active shooter. It’s because they don't understand what they can do and what they’re supposed to do. And they don't understand what the first responders can do. You can subside that fear by understanding your role. Once people educate themselves on the law, when people can carry and how they can carry, the fear will subside.”

Lewis believes fear is common even within those people who feel compelled to carry guns. And that fear, from both sides of the spectrum, is what causes gun violence to be such a heated topic in our country.

“Most of these guys who walk around the street with guns wouldn’t want to fist fight,” Lewis said. “They’re scared. They think that they want to strike fear in someone else. That’s just the way it seems to me. I think the way that we approach those things needs to go in a drastically different direction.”

For Lewis, the open carry law fosters fear rather than the security that some of its proponents promise.

“It’s not something we need. It’s not something that breeds love and security. It’s the antithesis of what we strive for as a country. To me, it shows that a lot of us are afraid. We think that if we put something on our hip, we’ll be safer. That’s not the reality.”

Despite the pain and grief the loss of his brother brought him, Lewis has grown to understand the importance of life. And he has realized that harboring fear towards each other can seriously impede one’s appreciation of something that gun violence can trivialize through statistics: human life.

“With the pain and everything I’ve dealt with, the one thing I don’t have anymore is a fear of death,” Lewis said. “To me, life is a celebration. When you go, the world doesn't stop. None of us are that important. Through the passing of my brother, I’ve gained a different outlook on life, and in many ways it is a positive one. You have a really important gift of life, and we should do our best to make this place better than it was when we found it.”