In 2012, 14 school shootings occurred in the United States including the Oikos University shooting in Oakland, California, in which One Goh killed seven students with a .45 caliber handgun.
In 2013, 32 school shootings happened including the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in which Adam Lanza shot 20 first graders and six adults using a Bushmaster .223 caliber before taking his own life.
And now in 2014, 39 school shootings have already been reported. This one year has more school shootings than the entire decade of the ’90s. And because there’s still two months left in the year, we’re likely to see a few more.
Granted, some of these shootings didn’t result in any deaths or injuries, but guns were still present and shots were still fired. I’ve always believed that other than home, school was the safest place for a person to be. But numbers like 39 don’t lie. Why is school becoming less and less of a safe haven? And why do these monthly shootings not clue us in to prevent future ones?
On Oct. 23, SUNY Canton sophomore Alexis Vazquez was suspected of going on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media site, and threatening a school shooting at the campus. At 8:58 a.m., SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran posted on Facebook: “We recognize the concern about the recent threat that came over the anonymous social media site, YikYak. There is no evidence at this point that the threat is either credible or imminent. SUNY Canton will be holding classes and activities as scheduled.” Despite the possible danger, the initial reaction was to disregard the threats. A little while later, more messages were posted on Facebook saying, “Please take shelter and lock your door,” and, “Classes have been cancelled for the remainder of the day.” No guns were fired, and nobody was injured between those Facebook posts, so why were the threats nonsense one minute and then an emergency the next?
Any threat should not be taken lightly, especially when it involves guns and students. What if Vazquez’s threat was legitimate? Imagine having to explain to the parents of dead or injured students, “Sorry, we thought he was faking.” SUNY Canton did the right thing in the end, but the initial reaction was less than ideal.
The real problem is people aren’t aware of the warning signs for school shootings. On May 23, Elliot Roger, 22, went on a shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, killing six people, injuring 13 others and taking his own life. Roger, a student of the University of California, Santa Barbara, committed the shooting because he was unlucky romantically. He despised anybody who was able to find love while he remained lonely. Roger targeted mainly sorority girls. He saw them as being “spoiled, stuck-up, blonde slut(s),” who preferred “obnoxious brutes” over himself — all of which Roger explains in multiple videos on his YouTube channel.
Essentially, all of Roger’s videos are him describing how lonely he is, how girls don’t find him attractive and how he’ll get revenge someday. After watching all of his videos, including one in which Roger describes how he will get his “retribution,” my question was how did nobody notice this kid had serious problems? Surely his family members must have noticed something? One of Roger’s roommates even said in an interview with ABC, Roger was shy and introverted. Roger would have very loud and angry phone calls with his father, Peter, describing how he was unhappy with his life. Despite the videos, the unhappiness and the strange personality, Peter said he was unaware his son could ever commit such a heinous crime.
Just the other week, Plattsburgh State closed off a few of its buildings because a suspicious package, possibly a bomb, was found in the ACC. The package was later declared harmless, and the situation was a big misunderstanding. Nevertheless, PSUC University Police took the right steps in keeping the students safe. There was no hesitation. A suspicious package is a suspicious package. You don’t sit around and wait for it to blow up or not. It’s just like those subway posters say: “If you see something, say something.”
We need more emergency protocols like PSUC’s handling of the suspicious package. No waiting. Even if the whole thing is a hoax in the end, students should be kept safe from any possible threats. The warning signs are right in front of our faces, and we need to finally start looking.
Email Griffin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.