Student and Law Enforcement Groups Respond to Recent Campus Shootings
Incidents in Oregon, Arizona, and Texas have revived a discussion about laws regulating guns on campus and the special policing challenges that the university environment presents.
The recent spate of school shootings—including three high-profile ones in the first half of October—has placed the spotlight on membership organizations dedicated to college safety and on policing strategies unique to students.
On October 1, 10 people were shot and killed at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, followed on October 9 by incidents at Northern Arizona University, where a student allegedly wounded three people and killed one, and Texas Southern University, where one student was killed near the campus.
The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators responded to the Umpqua Community College incident by releasing a statement highlighting campus safety concerns: “Campus public safety agencies must, and do, prepare for a variety of scenarios within their active-shooter training, as well as establish partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to train and respond to critical incidents that may occur on a college campus,” said IACLEA President William F. Taylor, chief of police at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas.
In an interview with The New York Times, Taylor noted that campuses present a unique policing challenge that can exacerbate the threat a shooter presents. “There’s very few campuses that have walls and fences where they can control who comes and goes,” he said.
This month’s incidents are the latest examples of a disturbing trend: The number of campus shootings has risen in recent years, according to U.S. Department of Education data. Last year NASPA—Student Affairs in Higher Education released a statement in conjunction with five other college- and student-related organizations opposing laws that would allow more people to possess guns on campus. According to the statement: “Firearms on campus should be strictly limited to recruited, trained, and supervised police officers (federal, state, local, or university police) or participants in institutionally endorsed educational programs for which use and carry of a firearm is a necessary requirement.”
Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, told USA Today that preemptive steps, including heightened awareness of student mental-health issues, can help prevent further shooting incidents. “We saw quite a focus on the increase in threat-assessment teams” following the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that killed 32 people, Kiss said.
(Two mourners gather during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Winston, Oregon. Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)