Quinnipiac professor calls for action in the wake of mass shooting in Las Vegas

By on October 3, 2017

Photo courtesy of Jean Bosco SIBOMANA
Professor Cindy Kern is 3,000 miles away from her hometown right outside of Las Vegas, and though she can try to offer help from a far, Kern is focusing on pushing for conversation.

Currently serving as the director of the Quinnipiac University Science Teaching and Learning Center, Kern spent all but the last five years of her life living in the Las Vegas area.

She was born in California and raised in Henderson, Nevada. She later attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she received three degrees. Kern met and married her husband there, and her son was born and raised there. She says she knows only Las Vegas as her home.

Kern’s brother works at the airport that borders where Sunday’s Route 91 Harvest Festival took place. He can see the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino from his office, and the window where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock shot and killed more than 50 concert-goers and injured more than 500.

Kern woke up on Monday morning and logged onto Facebook. The news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas was the first thing that showed up on her newsfeed. She immediately turned on the news on TV before texting her brother’s family and her close friends.

At the time, it was 2:30 a.m. in Las Vegas, so she did not hear anything from then until around 10 a.m. in Connecticut. She learned that her family and friends were safe.

Throughout the day, more and more stories came in. Kern later found out that one of her former students was critically injured at the concert and is fighting for his life. Another one of her former students, who is a nurse, was able to escape unharmed.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Kern
“I kind of imagine our relationships like a pebble in a pond,” Kern said. “That first ripple is your close friends and family and then that ripple goes out. I think social media really accentuates those greater connections.”

The more and more she looked at the list of victims who were murdered, she realized that Las Vegas is not just a Nevada town.

“This happened in a global city, a city where 300,000 transcend on that city a weekend. It’s contextualized for a lot of people,” Kern said. “A lot of people have walked down to Mandalay Bay. A lot of people have attended concerts right there in that spot. There’s very few people who have visited Las Vegas who cannot (picture) themselves there. So does that mean that (Americans) can use that as a mechanism to sustain these conversations? I hope so.”

Kern emphasized that we cannot make this a single issue without trivializing the fact that our

lives are multi-issue. Just saying that the problem is gun control or mental illness is not true, according to Kern. She wants to focus on how we value humans and make that the focal point for action.

“This man did not value human life at all. He didn’t even value his own life,” Kern said. “So when we think about the decisions being made, be it gun control, be it health care, be it Black Lives Matter, be it religion and the way in which we view religions, be it our political systems, if we can all just sort of couch our conversations in how these things influence that value we put on human life, then we have a common thing to talk about.”

Kern wants to do something. She said she can’t give blood and she has already donated money. Kern wants people to know that this is not just something society can let go away.

Kern plans to set up a conversation and get a cross talk going within the university. She also wants to pull in stakeholders such as teachers from other districts, students, administrators and families with the key being not just having the conversation, but the result ending in actionableinitiatives.

Kern admits she does not know what sort of actions need to be taken, but she wants to talk about it.

“If we want to see change, we have to have actionable items. Until we have these very tough conversations, with a willingness to move, then the answer is not right there,” Kern said. “As soon as we say, the number one thing is gun control and we ignore everything else, we just trivialized the entire human experience down to one thing.”

Kern did discuss her stance on gun legislation, however.

“The counter argument is vehicles can be used, and knives can be used and acid can be used. People just find outlets for their violence, be it a gun, be it it not a gun,” Kern said. “Twenty-two thousand people, 600 victims in four and a half minutes–not going to happen with a knife, not going to happen with a car, so there’s not an equivalent argument. That’s me talking about my perspective on gun control.”

Photo courtesy of EuroNews/Creative commons
Kern also pointed out that other countries do not believe that we need guns to be safe.

“Do I think it’s preventable? Yup, look at the rest of the world,” Kern said. “We don’t see mass shootings in Australia. We don’t have mass shootings in London.”

Kern is not worrying about ‘the why’ of the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Right now, she wants to be a catalyst for thinking about how to solve this problem.

At Quinnipiac, Kern said she applauds students for working hard at thinking beyond themselves and having more global perspectives.

“I think the call to the Quinnipiac students is to really take that thinking beyond yourself, thinking globally to the next level,” Kern said. “This idea of reaching across the table, recognizing the fact that the reason you pick a topic that everybody can talk about is because though compromise is necessary sometimes to move forward, there’s certain things that we won’t compromise on. So you pick something that you can have action for. How can my side add to the value of human life? How can my opposite person do the same thing? That leads to action.”

Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas appeared on the TODAY Show on Tuesday morning and told the nation that Las Vegas will not be defined by “this sick, disgusting human being.”

“I will never mention his name,” Goodman told TODAY. “And I look to the sky to the new stars that are up there for each one of these beautiful, innocent people who were slaughtered.”

Kern ended with pointing out that while some people have the perception that “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” in this instance, this massacre happened in Las Vegas, but it didn’t stay there.

“The thing is that Las Vegas is a community just like North Haven or Hamden or whatever your hometown is,” Kern said. “They are resilient, strong people. We’re not always known for our culture of community because it’s a really transient city, but the heart of Las Vegans is huge. I think people need to take a minute to realize it’s not just a place that you visit, it’s home to millions of people.”

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About Kelly Ryan

Web Director
Email: kelly.ryan@quinnipiac.edu
Twitter: @KellyRyanJRN
LinkedIn: Kelly Ryan
Year: 2019
Major: Journalism