Mass shootings now frightening routine

Another mass shooting took place in America last week. This violent, hateful, brutal slaughter was committed in a community college in Oregon. The story unfolded throughout the day on Thursday, Oct. 1 and we learned pieces of the tragedy that occurred on the Umpqua Community College campus.

First of all, before this incident is “politicized” as President Obama said it should be, our hearts should break thinking about the people who were directly impacted by the shooting. Today family and friends are mourning for those who were killed. As a college, it should be easy to sympathize with that. We sat in classrooms in America on Thursday too. Our families and friends trusted that we would be safe in those classrooms too. And we were safe, at least last week. The students in Roseburg, Oregon, were not.

President Obama used the shooting as an opportunity to demand action. “But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Obama said.  “It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.”

Obama is right. We can cry for the victims in this terrible tragedy, but that’s not enough to affect change.

When shootings happen, people often make them about their own political platform. Politicians are quick to bring up gun control, religion, race and mental health. There are so many facets of the issue, most of which are important and relevant.

But what is Oswego State going to do in light of this school shooting? What would stop someone from coming on campus and shooting students here? Localizing the national epidemic to this campus is a crucial piece in the puzzle, and one that seems to be neglected.

I was talking about this with a friend on the day it happened. We were sitting in Cooper, discussing what to do if an active shooter came into a classroom. We talked about evacuating, tackling the shooter, lining up against the wall away from the window or hiding under our desks. Then, someone at the table next to us joined in the conversation. We didn’t even know him, but we all became engrossed in the topic. We could have been talking about anything at lunch that day. But this question is weighing on students’ minds. That’s the way it should be.

This is a conversation we need to continue having. It has to stay fresh in our minds, because we can’t become desensitized to the topic. We also can’t be naïve, assuming that this will never happen at Oswego State. The shooting in Oregon was the 45th school shooting in 2015.

Oswego State President Deborah Stanley sent an email to the campus on Wednesday. It didn’t really answer my questions. The email had a link to an active shooter video on the University Police website called “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.” The video, which I had never seen before Stanley sent the email, had nothing to say specifically about school shootings. In the email, Stanley also advised reporting dangerous circumstances to University Police and downloading the Oswego Guardian app. Not exactly helpful in an actual active shooter situation.

The email went on to say, “Our campus personnel regularly prepare for all manner of emergencies. Our police coordinate with local police agencies and state police and have practiced scenarios together. Our staff have procedures to review possible threats, from weather and natural disaster to human-created events. Please remember that you, too, have a part to play in the safety and security of our college community.”

I don’t feel that I am equipped to play that part in the college’s safety and security. I have received no information or training about what to do in an active shooter situation. I have participated in numerous fire drills and I’ve learned what to do if a friend overdoses on heroin, but I’ve never heard anyone speak about active shooter responses. Maybe we need to have drills for that, too. The professors I’ve talked to said they received no training about what to do if an active shooter is on campus, either.

I want to believe that this could be prevented. I want Oswego State administration to find ways to prevent active shooters from attacking the campus. But I also want to feel that the campus is as thoroughly prepared as possible to react to this situation if it did happen to us.

I don’t want to be afraid for my safety when I’m sitting in my afternoon class. This does not need to become Oswego State’s tragedy. It can be our story of hope, and our story of preparation. We don’t have to feel powerless, but we need to be equipped and informed so we can have a safer campus.