A former Cornell University student was arrested March 15 after a Walmart employee told police the student had purchased a number of items they deemed suspicious. Ithaca police found that the suspect had an unassembled AR-15 rifle, a gas mask, a homemade silencer, ammunition to various firearms, equipment commonly used to assemble destructive devices, high-capacity rifle magazines, medical trauma supplies, a bulletproof vest, food rations and fireworks in his apartment, among other supplies.
The student, 20-year-old Maximilien Reynolds, was charged with possession of a destructive device and a silencer. Reynolds was also charged with aiding and abetting the straw purchase of a rifle, meaning he encouraged someone else to purchase a weapon for him.
Reynolds has schizoaffective bipolar disorder with paranoid features and was on leave from Cornell, according to an interview Reynolds’ lawyer gave to the Cornell Daily Sun. Because of his mental health record, he would have failed the background test required to obtain an assault rifle. Thus, Reynolds would have had to ask someone else. This led to the straw purchase charge.
In light of the wave of mass shootings that have happened across the nation, issues like gun violence seem far away from the safety of Ithaca. But these things obviously happen much closer to home than anybody would like to think.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to give credit where credit is due. The Walmart employee who tipped off the police prevented a major tragedy simply by trusting their gut. The individual that purchased an assault rifle for Reynolds, on the other hand, should have made a better judgment call before going forward with the purchase.
In order to keep the local community safe from tragedies — and more specifically, the larger Ithaca community — people must take action. It can be as big as organizing a march against gun violence like the Parkland students did with the March for Our Lives campaign, or as small as listening to gut feelings and asking for help like the aforementioned Walmart employee did. Creating change and ensuring safety does not have to involve monumental or heroic actions; rather, it can be as simple as saying something when a situation feels wrong.