The recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio have rocked the nation, leaving communities mourning and reigniting bitter debates about gun control and violence. With the current polarized political environment and both sides firmly entrenched in their respective camps, it can be challenging to know which policies will keep us safer. This holds true for college campuses, where debate over “campus carry” laws has sparked fierce arguments on the effects of guns on campus safety in learning environments. In other states that have enacted campus carry laws, the evidence has been unclear on whether the law makes campuses safer or more dangerous. However, through research, I have found a way to decrease overall gun violence and provide a safer campus that should avoid most of the partisan bickering.
The University of Georgia should invest in mandatory programs to train students on how to react and respond to a violent shooter.
From the limited evidence that we have, unarmed civilians have been rather effective in helping law enforcement limit gun violence. In a study of 160 shootings occurring between 2000-2013 by the FBI, 21 incidents were stopped when unarmed civilians restrained the shooter. Excluding 90 instances when the shooting ended on the shooter’s initiative, this means that unarmed civilians played a key role in stopping the violence in 30% of cases, highlighting the important role that regular people can play in keeping their communities safe.
With proper training, UGA students can also learn to protect themselves and others when faced with a violent shooter. The university already invests in programs designed to inform us on how to stay safe. Incoming freshmen must take courses on safe drinking habits and ways to prevent sexual assault. And, in accordance with Georgia law, the university conducts periodic fire drills to ensure that students will know what to do if a fire breaks out. Similar programs could help in reducing the effects of gun violence. As ABC News reports, experts say that, when threatened by a shooter, you should try to run, but, if you cannot escape, to hide and attack the shooter when an opportunity presents itself — for example, while the shooter is reloading. These strategies have the potential to save lives, but I suspect that many students have never had to learn about them.
Kendall Pratt, a first-year Ecology major from Decatur, expressed support for the implementation of programs that would teach protocols for dealing with an active shooter.
“I think it could kind of help,” Pratt said. “If something like that did happen, to sort of know where to go and what to do. And even though in the moment that might leave your mind, just having that safety knowledge of sort of having somewhere to go.”
So, while the debate over gun control continues to rage on in Congress, I am calling on UGA to implement programs that will teach students to deal with active shooters. Doing so could save lives and ensure that campus remains a safe haven.