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Improving Safety on School Campuses

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Since we’ve been back to school this semester, there have been a total of six shootings involving an injury or death on college campuses. At the beginning of October, sixteen people were shot in class at Umpqua Community College, and nine died.

Awareness heightened around the country after this shooting. Within the next ten days, three more shootings occurred on college campuses. At both Texas Southern University and Northern Arizona University, one person was killed and others injured on October 9.

In light of all of this, one of my teachers insisted on making a preparation plan for our class in Miller. She pointed out that, if a threat was in the building or on campus, there was no way to lock the door to the room for protection, which has always unsettled me on this campus. Additionally, one of the windows, a potential escape route, didn’t open. In another room in Miller, one of the blinds doesn’t close.

Coming from public schools K-12 in Virginia, there was a procedure for this sort of emergency. The schools could quickly go on lock-down where teachers would close the blinds, and lock the doors. Students would sit out of sight of any windows. This was a drill practiced every year, just like the tornado drill. But the way the classrooms are set up here, that procedure is impossible.

Many people push for tighter gun laws. The big “loophole” in a lot of state laws, Virginia included, is that there is no background check for the private sale of firearms or inheritance. My boyfriend, who would pass a background test anyways, inherited four guns over the summer from his grandfather. There was no paperwork, no investigation. He inherited them the same way you’d inherit a clock. They were just handed over.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence grades every state on their gun laws. Virginia has a D. That’s the highest grade of all Southern states. The states with the best scores, like California, highly regulate gun sales. Assault weapons are banned, guns can only be sold by a licensed dealer, there’s a comprehensive background check including a mental health portion, and then a ten-day waiting period. Maryland also requires reporting of any lost or stolen gun.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could oppose those laws. The government isn’t trying to take guns out of the hands of the public. They’re just trying to make sure they don’t get into the wrong hands.

I’ve always argued that the deeper problem isn’t gun restrictions, but how we deal with mental health in this country. Getting help is almost taboo. Slurs like “are you crazy” or “that’s insane” are so commonplace in our speech that I doubt people realize they are slurs.

If we go back to the Tech shooting massacre in 2007, the gunman, Cho Saung-Hui, had a history of mental illness. He was declared mentally ill in 2005 and was taken to a mental health facility but afterwards was treated minimally as an outpatient despite numerous complaints by students.

On Everytown for Gun Safety’s website, they include testaments from many high school shootings. Many students felt bullied and weren’t getting help or only shot themselves. The fact that suicide is involved with many of the shootings from high schools to the recent WDBJ shooting says something about the help we’re giving people, or rather not giving them.

This is meant in no way to victimize shooters that injure or murder other, but I can’t help but think what the difference a better acceptance of mental health would do.