Where will you be when Stony Brook experiences a school shooter situation? Will you be walking on the Academic Mall as you hear the rat-tat-tat of an AR-15 echoing across campus? Will you find out through a tweet while someone in the class tries to lock the door?
What makes you think it won’t happen here? Have any new county, state or federal gun laws been passed recently? Are there more extensive background checks? Is there more effective mental health care if that’s the side you’re on? Must we reach a requisite amount of thoughts and prayers before this all goes away?
The Onion’s shooting piece manages to be shared by at least four of my Facebook friends every time these shootings recur. The discussion begins again with more name-calling than intelligent conversation. We are no safer. One of these shootings happened in New York City. We moved on. If the shooting kills less than 10 people, it might only get through to the local media. The nation looks away, too bored to care. And then we wonder why it happens again, barely a week later.
Now, I feel totally safe on campus. The Stony Brook University Police Department has a website dedicated to Active Shooter Programs, along with a video about active shooter preparedness — instructing viewers how to act if an active shooter situation occurs on campus. Part of the video explains the SB Guardian phone app, which I don’t think anyone on campus actually has on their phone. The app sends safety warnings, lets you easily contact police and guardians and has a safety timer so that those guardians can know how long you’ve been in a situation where you feel unsafe. On the page, there is a link to a form to schedule an Active Shooter Program with UPD.
Since the inception of 2018, there has been a school shooting at East Olive Elementary School in St. Johns, Michigan. Another took place at New Start High School in Seattle, Washington. Then another at Coronado Elementary School in Sierra Vista, Arizona; at California State University in San Bernardino, California; at Grayson College Criminal Justice Center in Denison, Texas; at Wiley College Campus in Marshall, Texas; at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; at Italy High School in Italy, Texas; at The NET Charter High School in Gentilly, Louisiana; at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky; at Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama; at Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan; at Lincoln High School in Mayfair, Pennsylvania; at Salvador B. Castro Middle School in Los Angeles, California; at Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland; at the Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, Minnesota; and at Metropolitan High School in New York, New York. Most recently, 17 people were killed and another 23 injured by AR-15-wielding Nikolas Cruz at Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida. All of this is according to a report by the Daily News.
It’s easy for our eyes to glaze over as we read about school after school. It becomes part of pop culture. We make games about school shooters. I’ve heard people describe others as having “school-shooter aesthetic.” We, as a society, have created the character of a school shooter — however similar to reality it is. Meanwhile, books are written dispelling those notions. Without reading these books or speaking with friends and relatives of the shooters and their victims, how can we hope to learn how to stop such events from taking place? We go back to blaming gun laws — which definitely needs to be worked on. We go back to blaming the way we treat mental illness, which also needs a lot of work. Some people argue that having more guns will help, but unless we reinstitute some kind of draft to standardize gun training, I don’t see the logic in this.
We think and pray and send our condolences. In my mind, this is important. It is important that we show the victims and their families that we sympathize with their pain. We are part of the society that created the problem that affected them. But part of this sympathy requires us to take action. Call your representatives. Tell them that you want stricter background checks or restrictions on assault rifles. Call them over and over until new gun laws are passed. Improve the research done on shooters and prevention of attacks so that we have better ways of approaching these issues. Try out some of these methods, whether they are improving screenings by school teachers or introducing more areas of self-expression.
Let’s keep Stony Brook out of the news. At least not for this.