No Space for Guns on College Campuses

By Lindsay Haislip
News Editor

On Dec. 14, 2012, the nation was shocked and devastated over the loss of 20 children and six adult staff members as a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The events at Sandy Hook do not mark the first occurrence of gun violence on school campuses; the April 1999 shooting at Columbine High School as well as the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting each stand out as tragic moments in our nation’s history.

Since December 2012, the discussion surrounding gun control has been one of both political and emotional motive. Whether or not individuals have been directly affected by gun violence, the push to remove guns from campuses nationwide has become a significant debate.

Despite the remote location and small size of Washington College, the concerns surrounding gun violence on campuses are present. In December, President Mitchell Reiss joined nearly two dozen Maryland college and university presidents in signing an open letter to politicians. The letter was drafted by two college presidents in Georgia (Oglethorpe University and Agnes Scott College) after the Newtown tragedy. The letter now has about 350 signatures from all around the nation.

“It seemed completely reasonable and the right thing to do,” said Reiss. The Governor of MD Martin O’Malley put out a similar petition supporting his beliefs on gun control in MD, which Reiss signed as well.

While Reiss does see guns as being a necessary part of hunting, he see no place for them on his campus.

“People enjoy hunting, I’ve enjoyed hunting, for example in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve really enjoyed the times I’ve gone goose hunting in Maryland.” Reiss said. But, he said, “I want them off my campus.”

Director of Public Safety Jerry Roderick also supports the effort to remove guns from campuses, citing the College’s policy in regards to gun.

“The College clearly has a policy that does not allow people to bring weapons on campus. We know that there are some weapons on campus associated with some of our sports organizations, and certainly police officers and those who are legally able to carry guns have them.”

Apart from participating in and supporting the effort to remove guns from campuses in MD, WC has worked diligently to put in place a more comprehensive and up-to-date emergency response system. The Emergency Operations Group has developed a flip booklet over the past year, which contains an emergency response plan for various emergency scenarios; Emergencies requiring action might include an earthquake or other weather emergency, crime or other suspicious incidents, fire and smoke conditions, bomb threats, or active shooters on campus. The booklet also contains important phone numbers, and acts as a quick reference guide for inquiry into all types of emergency situation procedures.

The creation of the “Crisis Response Guides”, found in every building on campus, as also led to the planning of active shooter training for the WC campus community. Once the plan is presented to the faculty for approval, Public Safety will move forward as soon as possible to teach WC stakeholders what role they can play should an active shooter situation ever arise on campus.

“. In my business, you find that people can become pretty complacent and then when something significant hits campus, there is a very heightened sense of awareness of our vulnerabilities and people have a great need to learn what they can do to protect themselves and others so it is the time that brings the best opportunity to do this type of training,” Roderick said. “This is what I call teaching life skills in safety and how to have awareness in any situation.”

In the case of an active shooting, Roderick offered three reactions to scenarios, depending on which one applies to the situation. The first action an individual should take is to alert the police. “Time is of the essence,” he said. The second response is flight. “If you can run and get out of the area of danger, that’s the best plan.” The third is if you are forced to stay in the building, the development of a good technique to hide and protect yourself is key. “Lock the door, hide, and turn off the lights. Develop a plan to fight back if it comes to that, either individually or as a group,” Roderick said.

While the sincere hope is that a tragedy such as the ones that occurred in Newtown, CT, Columbine, and at Virginia Tech never occurs at WC, it is important to be prepared in the event of such an emergency.

“You have to remember that we are just a cross code of society, so whatever happens out there can happen here,” Roderick said. “Fortunately, we’re a small school in a smaller town, so we can probably see things a littler closer than they would in a bigger community. But, it’s important to remember that it could happen here tomorrow.”

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