It was a productive start to a long weekend. While visiting friends at UC Berkeley, we decided to study at the Doe Library, the only worry on our minds being our impending final exams. The gentle afternoon wind blowing through the high windows was the only sound that filled the silent hall – until it was no longer.
Loud banging suddenly pierced the silence, followed by terrified screams. Heads began to slowly lift from laptops and notebooks, awakened from their study trances. They lingered, scanning the room and searching the faces around them for clues as a cloud of commotion settled.
When the screams escalated, all of the students in the crowded library jumped out of their seats like clockwork. Some ran out of the room and smashed a window, opting to jump 15 feet over the library boundaries. Others began to barricade themselves in the room, turning off the lights and huddled in the corners. There was no hesitation. No one says a word, but the silence speaks volumes.
We later found out that the noises were actually caused by a university club play a ball game outside, not an active shooter. But that didn’t make the experience any less real. Perhaps the most upsetting aspect of this bizarre incident to me was that everyone’s mind automatically assumed it was a school shooting. There was no pausing to look out the window and check the source of the sound. We were in America, a country which represents almost a third mass shootings around the world despite only housing about 4% of the world’s population. Of course, it would be a shootout. As a friend of mine said, loud unsolicited noises have become “the modern equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded room”
As many liberal politicians begin to support stricter gun control legislationthere is a lack of direct attention to student protection, which has resulted in more 292,000 students witnessing this kind of armed terror in school before they even reach college age. Lawmakers must focus their immediate attention on banning guns from school grounds, K-12 and college campuses, especially as 2021 has seen the largest Number school shootings over the past two decades.
To date, no federal law explicitly restricts guns on college campuses, leaving the decision up to individual states. Alone 16 states have enacted a ban on concealed weapons on campuses. K-12 campuses, on the other hand, receive slight federal protection through the Gun-Free School Zones Act which seeks to regulate the possession of firearms in and near these schools. However, the law has a major impact loophole which exempts those who are authorized by a state to carry a handgun. Since this law was enacted in 1990 and there have been more than 300 Shootings at K-12 schools since then, something is clearly not working.
It would be tragically naïve to suggest that simply banning guns from these campuses would completely prevent gun violence from occurring. However, minimizing the accessibility of these weapons and replacing them with non-lethal alternatives when necessary is a start.
Currently, 33 K-12 schools do not have definitive laws against the carrying of weapons by teachers, and as of 2012 approximately 75% university police departments carried weapons. Despite this freedom, some States are fighting for even looser restrictions on guns in schools, and others are making it easier than ever obtain a firearm first.
What initiatives like these fail to recognize is that adding guns to the equation will not reduce rates of gun violence and may in fact do the opposite. Many of the states fighting for these looser restrictions that already allow professors to carry guns are also the states with some of the highest rates gun deaths.
Take, for example, the teacher in a California public school who accidentally shoot a student during a safety demonstration, or the Alabama public school teacher who inadvertently fired a gun in a classroom, injuring a first grade student. Teachers are trained to educate, not to use deadly weapons.
The risk of having these weapons in close proximity to students is palpable. In the past five years alone, there have been numerous instances where weapons have been left accessible to students due to the negligence of the faculty in possession of these weapons. Since the number of children who have accidentally gunfire, whether at home or in public, has only increased during the pandemic, prevention is better than cure.
On college campuses, the need for armed college police has been debated in recent years, with many students explaining that the presence of these armed college police makes them feel unsafe and restless. It is not difficult to understand why. In Georgia, 21-year-old student Scout Schultz was shot dead by university police while going through a mental health crisis. In Cincinnati, an unarmed man civil was shot and killed by university police during a minor traffic stop. There is already a huge mistrust of policing systems, with public confidence in the police falling to 48% during the last years. Since the majority of crime on campus is goods In the same vein, it seems excessive to have such a heavily armed university police.
These days, the desire of those working on K-12 or college campuses to be equipped in the event of a disaster is sadly understandable. Tackling the general lack of gun control in America, the root of much of this fear, is a much bigger beast to tackle, a beast that is slowly being chipped away by Democrats. legislators Across the country. As gun laws continue to spark controversy, students deserve schools to be unchallenged safe spaces, and securing K-12 and college campuses by replacing firearms with non-lethal alternatives would prevent put students at additional risk.
I haven’t been able to get the Doe library incident out of my head since it happened, and neither have the friends I was with. The blurring of moments continues to replay in my head. The way my stomach dropped to the ground as screams and clusters of pop filled the air. The desperate race to the back of the room, sliding under the table so frantically that someone’s laptop charger got tangled around my neck. The quivering mass of bodies coiled together, frantically texting their loved ones but not knowing what to say.
This sense of fear, this collective trauma, was instilled in American youth from an early age. Growing up and watching one massacre after another on the news, one can’t help but wonder if this will happen to them. This wasn’t my first experience of active fire lock at an educational institution, and it wasn’t for my friends either. Until lawmakers are able to implement tough federal laws that make it harder to get and carry a gun in public, these guns should at least be removed from the classroom. After all, the goal should be to protect the students, not the guns.
Art by Angela Liang for the UCSD Guardian.