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Valencia College Mourns 7 Students Killed In Orlando Nightclub Shooting


Now, of the 49 people killed in Orlando on Sunday, no fewer than seven were students at the same community college. It was Valencia College, where Joseph Torres is the student government president of the east campus. He told us that, inside building 4 of that campus, the college set up a room as a kind of safe haven.

What is the safe haven like?

JOSEPH TORRES: It's part of our library. It's on the first floor. It's an open area of seating. And we set up, like, a table where you can write notes to the first responders, write letters to the organizations who are reaching out to the communities that were affected.

INSKEEP: Have you been spending time there?

TORRES: I have. I just got back there because I was trying to see what the mood was like.

INSKEEP: And what was the mood like?

TORRES: Very somber, but also uplifting as well. There were students there. Some of them were very calm, but you could still tell in their face that there's suffering.

INSKEEP: Have classes gone ahead this week?

TORRES: Classes have gone ahead this week, yes.

INSKEEP: What's that been like?

TORRES: In my state and local government class, we talk about a wide range of things that are happening state and local wise. And that seemed to be the elephant in the room, which was what I was expecting. We talked about it briefly, about, you know, the events.

INSKEEP: We should tell people - you're a political science major, right?


INSKEEP: So were you thinking about the political implications of this? You could think in terms of how it affects the presidential campaign. You could think in terms of gun control laws. What's on your mind?

TORRES: Given that I know how political this could turn out to be, I think, at the moment, I think it's best to just allow the grieving to occur without having to put political correctness into any of this at the moment. I was at a rally and, of course, the gun campaign was there and the Brady Campaign and the other groups that are for the more gun control. And I also work at Academy Sports + Outdoors, which sells firearms. And we took our firearms off display, but we were still selling them, just out of respect for what happened on Sunday.

INSKEEP: What's it like at work?

TORRES: The first Sunday, we just so happened to have a sale that was a buy-one-get-one for Father's Day, and...

INSKEEP: Are you saying buy one gun get one?

TORRES: Yeah. It was originally planned before this event occurred. It was a Father's Day special. You bought, like, a - this certain handgun and you got a revolver - like, one of those old-style revolvers for free.

INSKEEP: Now, you do hear about people who respond to a mass shooting by buying weapons. Did you hear anybody say, I'm here because of that shooting?

TORRES: There were some people there, of course, who came and never bought a gun before, but they bought a gun out of what transpired on Sunday.

INSKEEP: What kind of guns do you sell?

TORRES: We sell semi-automatic rifles, and we sell handguns. And we sell long guns as well as AR-style rifles.

INSKEEP: AR-style - you're referring to the AR-15, which is a U.S.-Military-style weapon. That's a variation on that that's widely available. Were people buying those on Sunday?

TORRES: They were buying it over the course of the week, yes.

INSKEEP: It's an interesting education for you as a political science student to go from the gun shop, where people are buying semi-automatic weapons, to a rally where you said the Brady Campaign was involved.

TORRES: Correct. I'm not in a position to stand with either/or. I just think they have a right to purchase firearms. And most people who buy them buy them legally through the channels in which you're supposed to and things of that nature.

INSKEEP: Has this incident affected at all the way that you view your life or your future?

TORRES: I want to say yes. It's hit me a little harder now. And it hurts when you find out when it happens nationwide because it's something you never want to hear happen. But when it happens in your hometown, it's like, this is surreal. And this is something that, you know, is happening all over the place. This morning, I was sitting in my car before my class, and I was just thinking about it, and I started to tear up. I was like wow, you know, life is short. You just never know what could happen.

INSKEEP: Joseph Torres, thank you very much.

TORRES: Of course. Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: He's student government president of the east campus of Valencia College in Orlando. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.