A mass school shooting at an Oregon community college Oct. 1 sparked debate over gun laws and safety within the SF State community.
The gunman, Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, who was a student at Umpqua Community College, used six illegally purchased guns in the shooting that left 10 wounded and nine dead, according to a Los Angeles Times article. Harper-Mercer, who was ultimately “killed in a gun fight with sheriff’s deputies,” had a history of mental illness, the article said.
Criminal justice professor Jim Dudley said it is necessary for SF State to prepare for events like the shooting in Oregon.
“I don’t think we should live in fear at SF State,” Dudley said. “We should think about an evacuation plan and a safe route. There are also an unlimited number or (San Francisco Police Department) officers within ten minutes of campus to keep us safe in case of an emergency.”
If an active shooter ever entered campus, Dudley said he would strategically block the door of his classroom to protect himself and students.
SF State University police officers have prepared for violent crimes like the shooting in Oregon, according to Jonathan Morales, director of news and news media for the University.
“Police officers participate in shooter training annually,” Morales said on behalf of the SF State police department. “The training is designed to make sure officers respond quickly to an incident. Police officers are equipped with protective body armor, such as ballistic helmets and shields, in case an active shooter or an intruder creates any harm to anyone on campus.”
This preparation is essential for adequate police response to crimes like the shooting, according to Morales who stressed the value of student contribution and asked that students report any suspicious activity on campus.
The wave of national coverage following the mass school shooting flooded news sites, raising questions about the current accessibility of guns in the U.S. President Obama spoke at a press conference at the White House the day after the shooting, emphasizing his goal to reevaluate gun legislation.
“I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis,” Obama said, as reported by CNN. “And I will politicize this. Because our inaction is a political decision we’re making. Unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.”
SF State junior Luke Evers who is double majoring in political science and international relations, said he is doubtful that gun violence in the U.S. can ever be stopped.
“In our society, with our current laws, I don’t know if there is much to be done for prevention of gun violence, because if somebody is going to get a gun and kill people, they will,” Evers said.
The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with 270 million civilian-owned guns, and the highest homicide-by-firearm rate, according to the International Business Times.
SF State senior and Latino Studies major, Ariana Guillen, said she tends to have a positive outlook on gun ownership.
“I know people who own guns, but I am not fearful of them,” Guillen said. “I feel that people have the right to defend themselves when necessary. When people begin to misuse guns and kill innocent people, that is where the problem is.”
Former SF State theatre major, April Labson, said she believes shootings like the one in Oregon should be examined on a deeper level.
“We can’t just look at how the killer did it and with what, but also why (he did it),” Labson said. “What made him feel this way? What led him to think this way? If a school wants to prevent violence, you can’t just focus on eliminating the how, but also and most importantly, the why.”
In a radio interview with NPR, Yale School of Medicine’s Dr. Matthew Goldenberg said with society’s high levels of mental illness, it is difficult to predict who is likely to perpetrate mass shootings.
“A lot of these people have not been identified previously as mentally ill and, even in retrospect, don’t have a classic mental illness that’s treatable,” Goldenberg said. “Focusing on the mental illness aspect of this violence perpetrates a negative stereotype about mentally ill people being violent.”
SF State BECA alumna Karen Ordaz said the shooting has made her fearful for students on campuses across the country.
“It’s scary to think that people aren’t safe at school anymore,” Ordaz said. “I ask myself how many more deaths will it take for the government to do something about our gun laws.”
Dudley stressed the importance of the emergency test system that occurs on campus and all around San Francisco every Tuesday.
“These shootings remind us that the emergency test system is not a warning anymore, it truly can be the real thing,” Dudley said.
Vice President of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management and Title IX Coordinator Luoluo Hong, sent an email to the SF State community Oct. 5 expressing her condolences to victims of the Oregon shooting and her concern for students, faculty and staff at SF State.
“I recognize that for many of us, this event has been a source of reflection and grief,” Hong said in the email. “An event of this nature may also trigger anxiety or stress for many of us, as we try to comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy. These events can also raise questions about our own safety and how our campus might respond.”
Story Map by: Isabella Ohlmeyer