Concealed carry on college campuses

Tristan Lawson

Staff Writer

There have been 305 mass shootings documented in the United States in 2015.

Much of the attention has been focused on high-profile incidents that have occured on college campuses and public schools. Most recently, the shootings at Umpqua Community College, in Oregon resulted in 10 fatalities.

The question of how to address the crisis transcends political, social and cultural lines. Some people argue that a shift in policy and laws regarding gun control is long overdue, others believe that more guns will make us safer, and some that say there is nothing that can be done.

In the case of college campuses, some states are endorsing the “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” philosophy and are relaxing restrictions on concealed carry on college campuses.

In Texas, students and teachers are now allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus, and even in class. This change in policy has resulted in some strong and provocative reaction from student bodies, as well as teachers.

A similar policy change in Idaho resulted in some unforeseen consequences, in which a professor accidentally shot himself.

In Florida, there have been no such changes to date. The University of West Florida’s existing policy remains the same. However, campus police are training teachers and some student groups on how to deal with an active shooter. This preemptive training is designed to teach people how to respond in these situations and how to minimize casualties and prevent collateral damage.

The UWF police website has posted a video that details what to do if there are shots fired on campus.

With these incidents on the rise, some might ask if there will be an increased police presence on campus.

“I do not anticipate any changes to the current security and police presence at UWF,” UWF police officer Kyle Gallagher said, via email. “Chief John Warren is doing a great job with our limited department resources. We have a very good response system in place with our current security and police presence on UWF main campus.

“All of our officers can be anywhere on campus within two minutes or less. We are on constant alert and patrol.  It’s what we are trained to do.”

“In the event we need additional assistance, we have a mutual aid agreement with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office,” Gallagher said.

“Furthermore, our duty is getting the word out immediately to the campus community in the event of an active shooter incident. We do this via the Safety Alerts and Notices, UWF Notification System, UWF Emergency Webs, and shelter-in-place protocol.”

Some say that this is not a gun control issue but, rather, a mental health one.

“As the public discussion shifts towards discussing this as a mental health issue, I am concerned about the stigma that comes along with that,” Ross Ginkel, a psychologist in UWF’s Counseling and Wellness department, said.

In the Resolution on Firearm Violence and Prevention, The American Psychological Association stated that only 3 to 5 percent of people with mental illness are attributable for risk of violence. The resolution also stated that the vast majority of people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime rather than the perpetrators.

Mass shootings carried out by someone with a mental illness are rare, though media focus may contribute to the impression that this is not the case.

While it may give some relief to know that the University is preparing for what we hope will never happen, these incidents are unpredictable, and Gallagher says awareness and communication are the key to survival and saving lives.

“I recommend programming our department number in your cell phone,” he said. “This way you can keep it on speed dial if you are walking alone at night. There are also emergency blue lights located throughout campus. They are located in every parking lot, service road, near stairwells, and walkways, including near the Nature Trail. In fact, we are installing three more soon.”

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