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The Antelope

The Antelope

Omaha shooting: Some hometowns just aren’t safe anymore


Antelope Staff

Home has always meant safety to me. I was fortunate to grow up in a safe neighborhood, in a safe town, where nothing bad ever happened. I remember trips to the store with my mom, and the sense of peace I got scoping the aisles for a treat to smuggle into the cart. Shopping was a secret bonding time for my mom and me. 

The Westroads Mall shooting, that killed eight people and the shooter, and memories of past crimes felt like ghost stories. Yet, the colorful fog of childhood has finally melted away, and I see that home isn’t as safe as it used to be.

I was walking to class on Jan. 31 when my sister told me about the incident in our hometown. As soon as I heard the word “shooting” my stomach roiled. According to KETV Omaha, a man entered a Target store in West Omaha with an AR-15-style rifle. 

There were 15 minutes where he walked around the store, firing off at least eight rounds. A 911 call was placed during this time, leading an Omaha police officer and a state trooper to enter the store. Brian Vanderheiden, a veteran Omaha police officer, yelled multiple times for the man to drop the weapon. After he refused, Vanderheiden shot and killed him. According to PBS News Hour, no one expect the shooter was injured.

Though I was three hours away from Omaha, I still couldn’t process what happened. This was the Target store my mom dragged us to on Saturday mornings to buy sunscreen for baseball games. This was the store where my friends and I went to select snacks for late movie nights. Something as horrible as this could never happen there. 

Then I started thinking about the time of the incident: 11:49 a.m. on Tuesday. This is when moms would load their toddlers into strollers to get their morning shopping done. When neighboring families would go to pick up last-minute items for lunchtime. Luckily, there were no civilian deaths or injuries that occurred. Although I wasn’t even there, a different wound opened up for me that day; some places just aren’t safe anymore. 

I’m grateful for the people that acted. I feel relief knowing that Omaha police arrived within 15 minutes and removed the threat. It also amazes me that Target employees helped people get out of the store during the shooting. According to the Tweet released by the Omaha Police Department, these employees had participated in active shooting training. 

I respect the way these people handled the shooting, but it also made me think about the actions needed. How Nebraska so desperately needs revised gun laws. The man who fired off the rounds spent three years in psychiatric hospitals for his schizophrenia. But he was still legally allowed to continue buying firearms. 

There are 19 states that have red flag laws that allow law enforcement to take firearms from individuals that pose a threat to themselves or others. WOWT 6 News reports a red-flag law was proposed this year in Nebraska but hasn’t obtained a legislative hearing yet. 

The Nebraska legislature needs to take timely action in enacting gun violence prevention laws. Every month that goes by unchecked without these laws is another chance for a safe place to become an uncertain territory. 

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