On October 1, 2015, I was in the Rhodes-Perrin Recreation Center. I had finished a class and decided to lift some weights, but any motivation I had to train was taken from me by what I was viewing on the television screens in the weight room. A school shooting had occurred in Oregon, and the media was all over it. Umpqua Community College students were murdered and injured in a mass shooting earlier that morning, and information was still being obtained by law enforcement officials. My body went cold.
I had been in a shooting event before. Though it took place on a highway, and not a campus setting, the anxiety I felt on that day flooded my system. I could remember the sound of multiple guns being fired in unison. The feeling of the unexpected event returned as I instantly felt a comradery with those Oregon students. Their lives would forever be changed by this event.
I immediately sought out Shawn Tyler in the Missions Department, and we prayed for the students, staff, and faculty of Umpqua Community College. The gunman, Christopher Harper-Mercer, was specifically asking students if they were Christian and then executing those who replied in the affirmative. He remarked he was sending them to Heaven. Attending classes and living on a Christian Campus mean something very different all of the sudden.
Walking through Lubbock Christian University, I overheard several students’ remark on the rise of school shootings. I had to reflect on the situation for some time. I was a college student and this campus shooting was all over several media sources. I could not avoid it. The parallel of school violence in my own life was not lost on me. I was in high school when the school shooting in Columbine occurred. I remember the media lambasting law enforcement at the time of the event. What most people do not understand is the officers responding to Columbine relied on their training. They did not immediately engage the active threat. My school life would change after that day, as well as my future training in law enforcement.
I remember the schools enacting active shooter drills. They were preparing us for the possibility of violence of this magnitude visiting our school. Years later, in not only the police academy, but also departmental training, I was trained in a specific course titled “Active Shooter.” While the training could be used for any shooting event, we were practicing in schools. I learned how to engage such an individual while clearing classrooms. I was training to run towards gunfire when the natural response is to run away. I found myself memorizing floor plans of schools in my area. I noticed people speaking about similar events like they were some kind of new phenomenon. While school shootings were becoming more prevalent, they were not uncommon.
The first reported school shooting in America took place on July 26, 1764 in Greencastle, Pennsylvania. There were thirty-six more school shootings during the 1800’s. Thirty-six school shootings over a hundred year period. During the 1900’s, the numbers would steadily rise each decade (except for the 1930’s and 40’s when eight shooting occurred in each decade). Some of the events received more coverage than others. In 1966, Charles Whitman opened fire from the observation deck at the University of Texas in Austin. He murdered seventeen people and injured thirty-one more. The University of Texas Massacre was the deadliest school shooting until 2007. While most of you were not alive during Columbine, you do remember Virginia Tech.
While the number of these crimes have risen, many have gone unnoticed until recently. Is it the media coverage that has led some of these perpetrators to act? Is it society’s fault for not recognizing the troubles of these individuals? I do not have the answers. I know this is a growing problem, as the numbers have risen. From 2000 to 2009, there were a total of forty-nine school shootings. From 2010 to now (half of the time frame), there have been 115 school shootings. They are not always mass shootings. The events are not always on high school or college campuses (a great number are at elementary schools). The perpetrators are not always students either. Several parents and teachers have been guilty of the crime.
The campus shooting at Umpqua Community College was not an isolated event. Since the shooting on October 1st, three more school shootings have taken place. On October 9, 2015 shootings occurred in Flagstaff, Arizona, Houston, Texas, and Upland, California. Three shootings in one day…
While I am at a loss for explaining why this is continually happening, as the Student Editor, I have an outlet to address one problem I saw during the Oregon Shooting. Several media outlets were contacting students via social media during the event. One student received multiple messages from major news outlets for updates on the situation, and her safety and wellbeing appeared to be an after-thought. For the students who endured this treatment, I am sorry for the way the media treated you.