by JESSICA HOLLAN
In 2015 alone, there were over 52 campus shootings, with 23 of those occurring on university grounds. Statistically, a campus shooting occurs once every eight days. Of those 23 college shootings, three happened within the span of one week, twice.
The deadliest of the shootings occurred on Oct. 1 at Umpqua Community College, resulting in 13 fatalities and over 10 injuries. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary, there have been over 150 school shootings. Each mass shooting subsequently leads to the same question: is there nothing that can be done to prevent these tragedies from endangering the lives of our friends and family?
With each campus shooting, gun control finds itself at the forefront of every debate; and despite the tragedies, no laws are passed the arguments remain the same. The debacles are depressingly routine, repetitive, and always end without solution. Despite the struggle for Congress to pass gun laws in one way or another, President Obama remains adamant in his stand for gun control. On Oct. 1, 2015, after one of the many tragedies, the leader of the United States said:
“The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws -- even in the face of repeated mass killings.”
Due to the fear of shootings, certain states have taken it upon themselves to create a solution. In early 2015, Texas passed a law making it legal for guns to be on college campuses. An article published in the May 31, 2015 issue of the Texas Tribune stated:
“Under the final version of the bill, universities and colleges will still be able to establish their own rules on where handguns are carried and how they're stored based on public safety concerns. Only concealed handgun license holders — who must be at least 21 years old — would be allowed to carry their firearms on campus, and private universities would be allowed to opt out of the requirement altogether.”
The Texas Senate Bill 11 (the campus carry law) will take effect on Aug. 1, 2016 and has been met with mixed reviews of students on Texas campuses.
Sophomore Jessica Flores, a student at Texas A&M College Station, said, “While I wish the status of today didn’t make people feel the desire to carry on campus, I don’t feel that it’s a huge danger.”
Flores continued to say that while she’s glad this “doesn’t give every loony with a gun the right to carry wherever they want,” she feels that her campus is safe and that there is no need to carry a gun on campus.
Sophomore Brianna Jones, who plans to transfer to College Station for her junior and senior years, will be moving on campus the same month the campus carry law goes into effect. Jones sees the situation as nothing but an “opportunity for many things to go wrong” and fears that if even experienced gunmen (policemen and even those in the military) are unable to find a clean shot in times of crisis, then college students will be unable to, as well.
The arguments at College Station’s rival school, University of Texas (UT), are a bit more radical. UT is protesting with the “Cocks Not Glocks” campaign, in which students are carrying sex toys in opposition of carrying guns on campus. It harks back to the slogan “Make Love Not War,” which was made popular in the 1960s during the Vietnam War.
“It’s honestly kind of scary thinking about someone on campus carrying a gun,” stated first year UT student Marisa Barrera. “About 51,000 students attend UT and I don’t even know 1% of them. The campus carry law will just increase the possibility of a campus shooting. It makes me feel a little unsafe attending the school knowing someone right next to me could be carrying a gun and at any moment, they could turn that gun on me.”
Fellow UT freshman Kate Hess agreed, saying she “wouldn’t feel safe at all knowing that people can carry their guns on campus, especially with all the shootings going on at other school campuses.”
Texas State University freshman Bernadette Gasper noted that “the new law is going to have a large impact on the campuses” and that she fears the law will cause students to lose their sense of security and become increasingly wary of fellow students with whom they may have had disagreements with.
In an online poll ran by The Tystenac staff, 64% of 39 Tiffin University (TU) and other collegiate students polled that they would be uncomfortable with a campus carry law on their campus, while 36% voted that they would be fine with a campus carry law on their campus.
Director of Campus Safety and Security at TU, Jennifer Boucher, remains reserved on whether the campus carry law is a good idea or not. She looks forward to statistics and research from Texas stating the advantages (proactively stopping a campus shooting) and disadvantages (accidental shootings) of the law.
She stated that she “would not want it on campus just because it allows for some people to make bad decisions, whether coherent or incoherent.”
TU student and lieutenant of campus security Joe Bruening said he would be comfortable with a campus carry law at the school. “I love guns, so I say yes,” he said. “But there needs to be more training.”
Fellow campus security officer Taren Davis agrees that a campus carry law would be a major deterrent to potential shooters.
“I think it would be good if [the shooter] sees that [the students] would be able to stop [them],” he said.
First year campus security officers Brett Ryan and Lucas Gower are slightly more reserved, with their opinions paralleling Boucher’s.
Ryan said that he believes it is a good idea, but he thinks that “measures must be taken so if someone gets angry, they can’t just take out a gun and shoot. And with parties, alcohol and guns don’t mix. Campus security would need to be armed as well.”
Gower agrees that there must be certain restrictions and that without proper training, it would ineffective as most people (especially young, untrained people) would freeze up in a life or death situation.
Allowing students to carry their own firearms on campus is considered a drastic measure, and appears to be one that only eight states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Texas) are willing to adopt. This leaves the remaining 42 states with the question of what can be done in order to survive a school shooting. Unfortunately, there are no foolproof solutions if somebody wants to cause harm, even if other students also have guns. The suggested process (and the one most campuses use) is the “lock out-get out” approach: lock down the area and try to get out of the building. If there are no exits (window, fire escape, stairs, etc.), then students and faculty are advised to turn off the lights, get out of the viewing of the door, and stay absolutely silent. The last case scenario is to either attack the shooter, or play dead. The latter is completely situational, as it will not work unless there have already been shots fired in that area. This approach is full of flaws, and it appears that that the new debate is over how to tackle the problem offensively without offering more guns to the scene. The most popular idea, born from the increase in shootings, is something many campuses are beginning to adopt.
West Branch Local Schools in Beloit, Ohio require all faculty to train in gun safety courses where the teachers are taught how to protect their classrooms and disarm an assailant in case of a school shooting. This proactive approach left many students feeling safer about their learning environment.
TU freshmen Brandon Utley and Madison Woolf graduated from West Branch High School and both agreed that their school’s proactive approach made them feel safer on campus.
“I felt better knowing that the teachers were equipped to deal with a shooting,” said Utley, “any knowledge is better than no knowledge.”
Woolf agreed, “I felt it was way more efficient then turning the lights out and huddling against the wall,” she stated, mentioning how if her “high school was ever under attack,” she would have felt much safer knowing that her teachers could fight back.
However, fellow West Branch graduate Audrey Nolte feels that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We cannot know for sure how well this new approach works, simply because we’ve never seen an outcome of a real situation with a real threat, or even a mock situation, to see how it would all play out. Even after the teachers did know safety, I did not feel safer because of the nature of our teachers: some of them cannot even defend themselves,” she said.
Nolte continued to state that while she agrees that the “proactive solution is better than the sitting duck idea,” there are further measures that need to be made to prevent injuries and death.
A popular suggestion has been to arm the teachers and faculty on both high school and university campuses. An article published on March 25, 2014 through The Huffington Post stated:
“Some school districts in Missouri have started training teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms. For a $17,500 fee, districts that opt in to the 40-hour program receive training for two staffers from current law enforcement officers through the Shield Solutions training school. Teachers are required to spend five hours in a classroom and 35 hours on the range with the required firearm, a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol.”
“In an effort to avoid harming the wrong students, teachers will also be armed with a special type of bullet designed to lodge inside the first body it makes contact with. Young school children will also be prohibited from hugging their teachers if they are carrying concealed weapons in order to avoid detection of the firearm.”
In online polls ran by The Tystenac staff, 56% of 45 Tiffin University and other collegiate students polled that they would be comfortable sending their future children to schools (elementary to collegiate level) where teachers and professors carried guns, while 44% voted that they would not be comfortable with their children being at a school with guns.
TU campus security members Bruening, Davis, Ryan, and Gower all agreed that while they would be comfortable allowing their future children to attend a school where teachers had their guns, they adamantly believed that it would need to be a requirement for those teachers to have more training then just the basic concealed carry training.
Ryan went one step further, saying that the teachers should be required to go through “police level training” in order to carry their weapon at school.
Bruening and Davis both stated that they believe that the teachers should not be able to carry their weapon on their hip, that it must be completely concealed.
Gower said that there would also need to be “some routine assessment to make sure the teacher doesn’t just snap” and shoot a student.
TU first year students Ana Seanor, Sam Campbell, Becca Smith and Sami Kramer all agreed that they, too, would allow their children to attend a school with teachers who carry.
“It would offer safety and protection for my child,” said Seanor. “It would make me feel better knowing that if anything happened in that school, the teacher would be able to do everything to protect my child.”
Campbell and Smith both said that they would be comfortable with the policy as long as the teachers received the proper training and kept the guns safely away from the children.
Kramer said, “I think it would protect them better, rather than them just sitting in the room like sitting ducks.”
While TU does not allow its faculty to carry weapons on campus, it has recently put a plan of action into effect in the event of a campus.
Boucher discussed what TU has in effect.
“We have a crisis response plan that has been in effect since July of 2015,” said Boucher. “We are working on training every department on the crisis response plan to make sure everybody knows what the requirements are.”
Boucher continued to discuss what can be done for students who would be caught in buildings such as Main, St. Mary’s, and Hertzer.
“We taught the A.L.I.C.E. training in the fall of 2014 to incoming first year students and to all faculty and staff, we are going to begin to train our first years again, hopefully in the fall of 2016 and every other year, with the staff, as well as opening it up to any classrooms interested in having us come and teach them. A.L.I.C.E. stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. It provides students a way to think outside the box, to think of other alternatives.”
After the training has taken place, Boucher plans to run a “live active shooter incident mock training to get everyone familiar with what you’re supposed to do.”
With school shootings continuing to wreak havoc on the American people, most people agree that something needs to be done. Whether in the classrooms or with the students, laws need to be passed and training needs to be offered.
“People need to practice with their weapon and be mindful that the purpose of a weapon is to kill,” said Boucher. “And they need to respect that.”