BY: JENNIFER GAGLIARDI
In the year 2013, there were almost 30 reported shootings on or near college campuses across the country. In January of 2014 alone, there have already been 19 shootings on the high school and college levels. National media did not cover many of these incidents, leaving the public uninformed about the situation at hand. Although many were quickly contained, these shootings have created a general sense of stress and worry on campuses across America.
One of the most horrific shootings last year occurred on the campus of Santa Monica College in California. The shooting left five people dead and several others wounded; the gunman ended the rampage by turning the gun on himself. This was preceded and followed by a number of other shootings nationwide, bringing the total of deaths to 18 people overall.
Back in early 2013, President Obama initiated an executive action that would “model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.” Statistically, one in four campus police departments are unprepared to handle an active shooting situation. In a separate poll, 46% of campus police departments say that they are understaffed. This lack of confidence in campus security can also lead to negative thought throughout students.
One of the biggest debates that has come out of these incidents is that of gun control. The issue of allowing firearms on college campuses has been a hot topic for years, and is only being further motivated by these recent events. Pennsylvania, looking for more time to discuss the idea, recently put off a policy to ban items that are deemed offensive weapons from their campuses. Contrastingly, a group called “Florida Carry” has recently filed a lawsuit stating that students should be allowed to carry guns on college campuses. This general dispute has been a part of popular debate since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
The most prominent way to combat these types of situations is for schools to arrange for the possibility of a shooting. One campus in particular, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, has taken interesting steps to prepare. The school purchased about $60,000 in bulletproof whiteboards in November from a company called Hardwire. These 18×20 inch boards are made from Dyneema, a material that is also used in various military endeavors. They have been sold to various high schools in the Midwest, but this is the first college to invest in them.
Other schools prepare students for these occurrences by using videos and reading. SUNY New Paltz has an entire page on their website dedicated to helping students learn how to be safe. The page uses a hyper-dramatic video to instruct students on how to handle school shootings, as well as FAQs on what to do if the shooter is near you or even how to help other students. This guide is an informative way to help people understand the risks and procedure during a crisis.
Statistically, shootings on college campuses have been on the rise. The best way to handle this upward climb is to make sure that students and faculty are ready for emergencies. As with any natural or artificial disaster, the best way to proceed is to be prepared.