HFC Among National Response to School Shootings

Students, staff, and faculty gathered on HFC’s campus on October 8 for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the shooting at Umpqua Community College. The American Association of Community Colleges called for students and faculty members to show their support for UCC’s campus following the tragedy. The event was part of a nationwide campaign that would see community colleges everywhere observing a moment of silence for the victims and their families.

The tragedy garnered national media coverage as one of the two mass shootings that took place in just one week.The United States has seen more than 200 mass shootings in 2015 alone. President Obama delivered a speech in the days following the UCC tragedy which signaled a call for action, stressing the importance of new gun control legislation. The president stated that people’s attitude about gun safety doesn’t make sense when compared to their attitudes concerning other kinds of tragedy. “When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon...doesn’t make sense.” He went on to posit that states with the most gun laws have the least amount of gun related fatalities. The president’s statement was based on a chart published by National Journal in August which shows data that calculates the number of gun-related deaths per 100,000 people and includes all gun deaths, including homicides, suicides, accidental gun deaths, and legal intervention involving firearms. The states at the top of the chart — Hawaii, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Jersey — have the toughest restrictions and the lowest number of gun-related fatalities. The president also mentioned special interest groups like the NRA that have in the past used tragic mass shootings as an opportunity to strengthen their resolve against gun control legislation. One argument often cited is that more law-abiding citizens carrying guns might be able to respond in time to save lives in the event of a shooting.

The trend of mass shootings is indicative of a problem unique to the United States, however. We are a country in which there is approximately one gun for every man, woman and child. Part of the issue is how readily available high-powered firearms are to people with or without permits. This makes it easier for people to act out their murderous rage and despair within a short period of time. Even our own campus at Henry Ford College has not been devoid of this type of gun violence. In 2009, Dearborn police responded to a “shots fired” call in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the morning of April 10. A student had tragically taken the life of an acquaintance and then turned the gun on himself. Aura Cazares of the counseling department at HFC notes that staff have undergone training with various law enforcement agencies including the FBI to become better equipped to deal with gun related incidents on campus. An efficient and timely response is often a crucial factor in minimizing casualties in mass shootings and schools everywhere have made great strides in this area since the Columbine shootings in 1999, when it took 3 hours for law enforcement to respond.

But what kinds of changes need to take place in order to reverse the trend? Could it be as simple as banning certain firearms? Perhaps US lawmakers could look to other countries that have had success with gun control laws as a means of curbing homicide rates. Australia, for example, passed strict gun control measures 19 years ago after a massacre left 35 dead and numerous others injured in a café in Port Arthur. The National Firearms Agreement and Buyback Program banned the possession of various deadly firearms and the results have been nothing short of remarkable with a 59 percent drop in gun related homicides in the decade after the controls were put in place.

Gun control was a major issue during the recent democratic and republican debates. Much has been said about the American left’s grievance over the political cowering to the gun industry and its lobbyists in the aftermath of mass shootings. Democrats have typically called for stricter gun control while many GOP candidates understand the issue as merely another aspect of the mental health epidemic.

Regardless of the candidates’ stance on gun control, it’s up to the citizens of our country to become informed about the facts surrounding gun violence and to play their part in bringing about changes aimed at reducing it. We must not forget that it’s a real problem requiring real solutions regardless of political affiliation or financial backing. We must take an active role by employing the means available, whether it’s writing letters and emails to local elected officials or organizing protests. Like President Obama says, “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” We need to do more.

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