The recent school shooting in Oregon, on the Umpqua Community College campus, is another bloody entry in a long list of school related shootings which seem to be in the spotlight since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
Since Columbine, there have been over 160 reported incidents related to gun violence on school campuses, with over 200 reported deaths.
These statistics raise many questions, namely, how can these situations be prevented from happening in the future, and what can we do when they do happen?
Many buzzwords seem to be thrown around without much plan-of-action behind them. “Gun control,” and “mental illness,” are two of the most used, and even seem to be opposing views on how to solve these issues.
They are endlessly discussed, but nothing seems to be done.
This broader issue brings up concerns here at MCCC, and what plans our campus has in case of a violent incident involving guns on campus, even though there has never been a gun related incident on our campus.
Randy Daniels, the Vice President of Student and Information Services said there are many aspects to our preparation.
“The staff has had training in the past,” he said.
“We purchased a training DVD called Shots Fired which is available to anyone, in the library, and we encourage professors to show this video to students.”
While the staff has received training and done drills, there is still a question of student training.
“There is currently no plan for drills for students,” he said.
“I think it’s a possibility for the future. But we’re a transient population. Over 70% of the students enrolled here are part-time. While having a live drill for students would be beneficial, we can’t train everyone.”
He did, however, reassure that the campus is well-prepared.
“We currently have 8 security officers, who are on campus before students arrive, as well as after they leave. They are all armed, which was something we initiated after the Virginia Tech shooting.” He said.
He also mentioned city and state organizations which have prepared for the possibility of such a situation happening on our campus.
“The State Police have done live drills on campus, and the Sheriff’s department has done a walk-around to familiarize themselves with our building layouts if a shooting were to occur,” he said.
MCCC student Julia Navarre says she doesn’t think we’re very prepared.
“We haven’t really gone through any practice drills or anything. I wouldn’t really know where to go if something happened,” she said.
While all of these considerations and preparations are much needed if something did happen on campus, we all must consider how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Better treatment of mental illness, and stricter gun control laws seem to be the media’s go to responses after a school shooting occurs.
But there is a major problem with new gun control laws, namely the 2nd amendment to the constitution, that stand in the way. Many people are uncomfortable with stricter gun control policies.
Mark Bergmooser, an MCCC Professor and President of the Faculty Association, said he doesn’t think gun control will solve school shootings.
“I’ve never heard a reasonable plan for gun control to stop mass shootings,” he said.
“People exercising their 2nd amendment rights is the answer.”
And there are many people who share such sentiments. Our culture – America – was founded on freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom to pursue individual interests, and freedom to own guns.
But with our amount of freedom, there is a risk of something like a school shooting happening.
Isaac Murphy, and MCCC student, says he’s still comfortable on our campus.
“I feel safe here because I constantly see campus security driving around almost all the time.”
The media goes on about school shooters being mentally ill, and while can all agree that someone who shoots multiple people at a school is suffering from some form of mental illness, it does nothing to fix the issue.
Kris Gerlach, Disability Services Coordinator for MCCC, says she doesn’t see mental health care necessarily solving the issue of school shootings.
“I don’t think there is a direct correlation” she said.
“I don’t believe any student with a mental illness is automatically going to shoot people, but better mental health care would be beneficial.”
Her statement seems to embody the issue with mental health problems and shootings – we all agree there needs to be better mental health care – but where is the starting point, and what should we do for these people?
This is part of a much broader issue which is nationwide and not fixable by a single community college such as ourselves. We can, however, take steps to help our own students, though there is only so much that can be done.
“We offer crisis intervention here in the LAL (Learning Assistance Lab), but we don’t offer on-going therapies. We just don’t have the staff, but then again now a lot of community colleges do offer long term therapy,” she said.
Mark Bergmooser weighed in on mental health care as well, shedding light on the countries ongoing battle with health care.
“Mental illness needs to be treated more effectively,” he said.
“It’s also under funded, which is really a big problem.”
Overall, there is no one answer. Our school has prepared itself if an event was to happen, but beyond that, there isn’t much that can be done.
Randy Daniels gave his thoughts on what we could do in the today’s world.
“I have three daughters, one of them in college. There have been shootings across the country, and because of our freedoms that’s a risk. It’s something I always worry about.”
“We need to be vigilant in our own lives. Not just here on campus, but everywhere. It’s about being constantly aware of your surroundings. If you see something suspicious, report it.”
“We’ve looked into incidents on campus before, and even brought students in to question them. If you see something, let us know,” he said.