Florida Shooting Causes Uproar, Student Activism

Kaitlyn Tambasco, Special Assignment Reporter

The Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 marked the 18th school shooting in U.S. history, leaving 17 people dead and more than 15 people injured.

Since the shooting occurred, students and young people have rallied around Parkland survivors’ calls for gun control and protest. Students are also looking to hold a march in Washington D.C. in favor of stricter gun control legislation.

Luke Perry, a professor of government and politics at Utica College said that the students who have spoken out about gun violence have been very impactful and the turn out for a march in Washington D.C. would be substantial, but not comparable, to the Women’s March in 2017. Perry mentioned knowing of UC students in favor of policy change that plan to attend the event.

“Our diverse student body reflects experiences and perspectives,” Perry said. “Students are split, just like the country is, some are excited and some are waiting to see what could potentially happen in gun rights.”

Perry reflected on the speech that President Donald Trump gave following the Florida shooting, dividing it into two main impulses.

“Trump has been reluctant to explicitly reference guns and the deaths that occured,” Perry said. “However, as time has passed, he has spoken about strengthening background checks and increasing arming teachers, which is a controversial proposal.”

Perry discussed previously working at an institution where students were allowed to carry concealed weapons.

“Beyond exploring the immediate issue of weapons and campus safety it’s as important, if not more so, to think of the contextual or societal considerations that are necessary to diagnose and respond to gun violence,” he said.

Perry explained shootings are uniquely American problems, which has to do with the amount of guns in society.

“This violence includes homicide, accidents, suicide and a variety of other things,” Perry said. “Everyone wants to stop gun violence, but without greater understanding and acceptance from different views any major policy change is unlikely.”

First-year government and politics student Audra Williams said that if given the ability she would also attend the student march in D.C. She is also anticipating policy change with gun control in the future, considering the incident in Florida.

Williams then pointed out that if guns were allowed at colleges, they should only be carried by the campus safety officers that have gone through extensive training. She also expressed frustration that if a shooting occurred on the UC campus, no one would know what to do.

“Throughout elementary, middle and high school, we were taught what to do,” Williams said. “However, I believe it does kind of change when you go to college and live on campus.”

Sophomore Skylar Harwick also would attend a gun control march in D.C. and said that it is the responsibility of American citizens to protest for change when it’s needed.

“I think that with enough determination anything’s possible,” Harwick said. “I like to think that the will of the people is stronger than political gain.”

Harwick reflected that UC campus safety officers should be armed, but criminal justice professors that were former police officers should not be. Her reasoning is that campus safety constitutes active-duty officials whom are supposed to keep students, faculty and staff safe. Harwick is also in favor of safety drills on campus.

“I think that safety drills for students in the case of a potential shooting would be a great idea,” Harwick said. “It would take some time and planning but if a shooting occurred it could save lives, which is the best trade-off imaginable.”

Criminal justice professor James Brown would also attend a march in D.C. regarding gun control.

He believes that if given the ability other students would attend to show. Brown explained  students are always encouraged to attend advocacy groups and events.

Brown also acknowledged Trump’s speech after the shooting in Florida. He said that people tackle things that can be physically seen, such as cancer or a broken bone, however, there has not been nearly enough research towards mental illness.

“I’m a Second Amendment advocate,” Brown said. “So we need to be responsible of the regulation of firearms.”

Brown also explained that colleagues Gregory Walsh, Raymond Philo and himself are the only criminal justice professors who are retired policemen. He mentioned that there are armed guards at places like banks and jewelry stores but not all schools have the luxury of having at least one on their campus.

Like Williams, Brown said if a shooter were to come on the UC campus, the majority of students would not know what to do.

“Run, Hide and Fight is nice, but it doesn’t become efficient without repetition,” Brown said.“The truth of the matter is, is that if something were to happen in the residence halls or in the dining halls where would you run?”

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