The topic of gun violence at college campuses is personal to Pacific Lutheran University. In May 2001, a man with no affiliation to PLU shot and killed James Holloway, a talented and well-loved music professor right outside of Hong International Hall.
The gunman pulled the trigger on himself and died, leaving only a 16-page suicide note.
Though PLU hasn’t experienced any on-campus gun violence since then, gun violence has escalated at many other American college campuses. In 2015 alone, there have been over 20 campus shootings.
Last week, three campus shootings occurred. Twelve people died and 13 people received serious injuries. To keep this in perspective, the average class size at PLU is less than 30 students.
In light of past and recent tragedies related to gun violence, Lutes are determined to keep this campus bulletproof. First-years April Nguyen, and Seth Chapman believe in order to prevent campus shootings, it’s important to evaluate certain aspects of our culture.
Nguyen noted the prevalence of video game violence among American youth.
“Shooters have learned violent behavior from the video games they’re exposed to,” she said.
Chapman believes that America’s Cultural Obsession with freedom contributes to gun violence on college campuses.
“Our country values freedom above all else, and that means that we generally have a lot less regulations than other countries,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s unfortunately not shocking when we see all these school shootings, and it’s impossible to not form that correlation.”
Noting how deeply-rooted firearms are to American culture, junior, Hofrenning calls for reinterpretation of the Second Amendment. “I think the Second Amendment talks about gun control in a very different context than we think about gun control now,” he explained. “I think we have to understand where the Second Amendment was coming from, where the idea was coming from, when they wrote it (i.e. Revolutionary War). We have to reevaluate the Constitution in a modern context.”
All Lutes interviewed expressed concern that college students are often the perpetrators of campus gun violence. They all cited “stress” brought about by raging hormones, adult responsibilities, and college coursework as the root of the problem.
“There’s some kind of relation between this time in our lives and violence,” added Hofrenning.
PLU administrators aren’t blind to the relationship Hofrenning referenced. In a recent email to the student body, President
Thomas Krise and Vice President Joanna Royce-Davis shared the “University Plan” to prepare for emergencies such as campus shootings.
“PLU has plans and protocols in place for responding to active shooter scenarios, as well as well rehearsed response tactics for a variety of emergencies and natural disasters,” they explained. “These plans are regularly reviewed and updated.”
Regularly updated or not, most Lutes won’t know about these plans for a while. The next campus-wide lockdown drill will not take place until the Fall 2016 semester.
First-year Laila Bevan believes more drills are necessary to ensure student safety.
“I think it would be important to have a drill during a time when people aren’t in classes, because that’s when we’re most vulnerable if a shooter comes in,” she said. “I think having drills when we don’t expect them would be a way to prepare for a campus shooting.” Her point is especially noteworthy because the 2014 shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School took place during a lunch period.
Nguyen believes that PLU should explain its safety plans and procedures all students on campus in a training course.
“Knowing what to do would probably reduce the amount of aftershock and negative results of shootings happening on campuses,” she said.
Chapman believes that the problem is bigger than practicing lockdown drills.“There needs to be better access to mental health services so that people who are really stressed out don’t drive themselves to the point where they go and shoot the school,” he said.
Junior Emily White thinks guns are too readily-available and regulations are too lax.“Guns should be treated the way cars are treated in the sense that you get checks often to see if you’re still qualified to be using one,” she said.
Sophomore Rachel Dimmig believes that the risk with guns far outweighs the reward on college campuses and in the United States as a whole.“It would be so much better if we just stopped selling guns to people,” she said.
Along the same lines, junior DeVere Dudley suggests that a change in the Constitution could reduce the problem. “People could possibly even revoke the Second Amendment,” he said.
Only time can answer this question: will school policy and student ideas keep PLU bulletproof, or are these attempts to prevent campus gun violence only shots in the dark?