In a culture obsessed with violence, from video games to movies, the sound of gunshots are dishearteningly familiar to both children and adults. The normalization of gun violence and mass shootings perpetuate this cultural marker that is very specific to the United States. Every time one of these tragedies happen, the last one as recently as this week in a small Northern California town, an echo of thoughts and prayers cloud the conversation, making gun reform virtually impossible to even conceptually be discussed.
When students walk on to the PCC campus every day, just like any time they go to a crowded public place, they’re aware of the potential danger. Although California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, a recent report show that a state’s gun laws can be undermined by its neighboring state’s. So following the shooting in Nevada, PCC students are feeling increasingly anxious about their safety on campus.
“I’m a little insecure about my safety on campus. Mostly because they administration isn’t great at communicating with students. And we don’t really know how trained the faculty is,” said student Presley Wilson. “As for campus police, their presence seems pretty intermittent. Sometimes I see them several times in one day, other times I don’t see them for weeks. Frequently when I do see them they’re just standing around joking with each other. They also don’t really interact with the students.”
The argument that a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun is mentioned all the time, and everyone at PCC, from the administration to the student body, has had it’s own issues with this sentiment.
“I’d actually rather them not carry lethal weapons, although I do think they should have tasers and pepper spray on them. I don’t know what their arsenal is like in their station, but I hope there are lethal weapons there and that they are trained well in their use in case of a major situation,” said Wilson.
There has been debate over whether campus police should have guns and both the police chief and the administration doesn’t seem to be clear on which way they lean.
“As a college police force in an urban area, the PCC Office of Police & College Safety has partnerships with neighboring agencies – including the Pasadena Police Department and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department – to coordinate and collaborate our response to incidents of different severity. Through ongoing training, drills, and regular communication, the college maintains its capacity to marshal an effective response to any incident that occurs on campus,” wrote PR coordinator Alex Boekelheide in a statement.
Students however still feel a looming sense of uncertainty when it comes to how the administration communicates with them, especially when it comes to sensitive topics.
“We really have no way of knowing how prepared they are,” said engineering student Pree Pada. “I mean unless you go up to like the police station and ask questions we don’t know what they know. And the RAVE alerts aren’t effective because your email is not what you check when there’s an emergency.”
“I didn’t know about RAVE until after the suicide happened. I just don’t think it’s practical,” said third year student Elizabeth Porras. “Who’s going to hear gunshots and think, ‘I better check my email!’”
With the gun control debate happening all over the country every time there’s a mass shooting, PCC struggles to find a preventative solution that everyone can stand behind, hence the ambiguous response from the school’s PR coordinator.
“I don’t know if they should have guns. It’s hard to tell. But I feel like that’s a very reactive debate,” said first year student Sehi Jordan. “We should be trying to prevent more of them from happening.”
There is also the morbid undertone to the fact that American students are coming to terms with the possibility of a mass shooting, that it’s indeed a reality for them.
“I mean that’s all of America but when it happens closer to home, it feels scarier,” said Jordan. “Since this is an affluent area, I don’t doubt responders will be ready. But that’s just America, people are afraid of change.”