PRO: Fight Fire With Fire
Asst. Lifestyle Editor
Suppose there’s an active shooter on campus. How do you expect first responders, specifically campus police, to fight them off with anything other than a loaded gun?
I’m not advocating for the Second Amendment, nor do I want it to become easier to get access to firearms and no, this article isn’t sponsored by the NRA. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think that the reason for so many shootings nowadays is because of how easy it has become to obtain a weapon.
A study done by the Citizens Crime Commission found that the increasingly deadly and more frequent campus shootings are occurring at colleges located in states with easier access to guns. The same study also found that the number of casualties from the last five years is a 241% increase when compared to casualties from shootings that occurred from 2001-2006.
If people are going to have guns for personal purposes, they should also be used by campus police officers to ensure the safety of the students that they’re employed to protect.
But realistically, if someone pulls a firearm on a group of people, the only way to fight them off from a distance is with a gun. Not with a taser, or a baton, or a knife taped to a broomstick, as this week’s active shooter drill seemed to suggest.
Yeah, okay, let me try to fight off an armed man with a stick.
PCC’s campus police are unarmed. Why? Plenty of other schools have armed security, as well as connections with the local police in the area. USC’s campus security carries firearms and East Los Angeles College’s (ELAC) guards do as well, in addition to a contract that they have with the local city police.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, there is about an 18 minute response time before first responders arrive on the scene of an active shooting, which lasts for 12.5 minutes on average. By the time the police get there, the shooting is over, people are dead and often times the shooter has already taken his own life as well. The police are no longer first responders, they’re the clean-up crew.
However, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred in December of 2013, the response time was much longer, as it was about 20 minutes before police officers and other first responders arrived at the scene of the crime. At that point, 20 children and six teachers had already lost their lives.
I’m not saying that guns need to be in every school. Unlike Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who once said that “there’s probably a gun in [an elementary] school to protect from grizzlies,” I can’t bring myself to justify the presence of firearms around children younger than the age of 12.
I’m on the fence about guns in elementary schools. If grizzlies are a school’s only concern, I think just building a fence around the perimeter of the land is sufficient. According to an article from Mic.com, a teacher from Wyoming even commented on DeVos’s claim, saying “no firearms in our schools! We do have bear spray but have never had a problem that would require using it.”
But the way I see it, if school administration sees a need to employ campus security, those officers should be armed, whether it be at the elementary, high school, or collegiate level. Especially the latter, as there are a lot more cases of crime on college campuses than any of the others.
Stricter gun control is necessary. Until then, all campus police need to have adequate weapons so that they can successfully fight off potential shooters.
CON: The answer to shootings is not guns in the wrong hands
Last week’s active shooter drill and the San Bernardino school shooting that took place last month has re-ignited the debate about campus police carrying guns. While the argument is valid, I’m not quite ready to jump on the bandwagon on giving guns to officers on college campuses.
As my colleague Cailynn Knabenshue pointed out in her piece advocating for guns for campus police, there are reasonable arguments to be made in favor of such.
“ According to the Department of Homeland Security, there is about an 18 minute response time before first responders arrive on the scene of an active shooting, which lasts for 12.5 minutes on average,” Knabenshue wrote.
However, giving guns to campus cops will do more harm than good if those guns are going into the wrong hands.
It’s no secret that policing has been under fire the past few years due to killings of unarmed black people. These shootings have been going on for a long time, but came to national attention in August 2014 with the shooting of Michael Brown Jr.
More recently, the death of resident Reginald Thomas Jr. at the hands of Pasadena police last November has brought that issue to the forefront of the community. Questions of police training, implicit bias and use of deadly force have been heavily debated from all sides.
Considering all of this, how can we know for sure that our campus police are competent enough to carry guns without harming our students, faculty and staff? What are the odds that one of our officers would end up shooting and killing a student, either by accident, or from excessive force?
In 2015, University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was beaten bloody by officers at a bar near his campus for having a fake ID. As terrible as that encounter was, I shudder to think what may have happened had the officers had guns.
Another incident in 2015 occurred when a University of Cincinnati campus police officer shot and killed Sam DuBose during a routine traffic stop for not having a front license plate.
All it would take is an officer on a power trip or without proper training and understanding to turn an interaction with a student for a minor offense, into that student leaving in a body bag.
Former police officer and researcher Seth Stoughton wrote an article for the Atlantic titled, “How Police Training Contributes to Avoidable Deaths.” Stoughton stated that one of the first things that new officers learn in training is that they must protect themselves first.
They’re shown videos of other officers being beaten, shot and run over and the idea is beaten into their brain that if they’re not hyper-vigilant at all times that that is how they will end up.
PCC is a campus predominantly made up of Latino, Hispanic and Black students and it’s been proven that police are more likely to use force on Black and brown people at disproportionate rates than any other group.
It’s a fact that school shootings have increased and the safety of students and faculty should absolutely be a priority. However, I have a problem with the idea that the solution is to put guns in the hands of police on a campus with a majority Black and brown population.
I especially have an issue without knowing the full employment and behavioral history of these officers, and whether or not they’ve previously displayed racial or ethnic biases.
Stoughton further stated, “Training also needs to compensate for the unconscious racial biases that lead officers to perceive a greater threat from black men than from others. Officers are not unique in that regard; implicit racial animus is depressingly common in society. But it is of special concern in the context of policing.”
I unequivocally understand the feeling that there is an increased need for more protection on college campuses across the nation. I simply won’t jump on the fear tactics bandwagon that believes putting guns in the hands of a group who has a history of excessive force with those guns is the way to make us safer.