Following Sandy Hook shooting, debate about guns intensifies
In wake of shootings, gun policy subject of debate in nation, state and campus
When criminal justice senior Harrison Gardner found out a person his age entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 children and six adults, he was horrified.
“I was in disbelief,” Gardner said. “I can imagine myself in first grade … It’s just horrific.”
But more than that, Gardner was angry.
He was angry someone could do that. He was angry because he knew what it would lead to — an attack on guns.
“All it takes is one dumb person to ruin it for everybody,” Gardner said.
Gardner, a rifle owner, said after the incident at Sandy Hook, he still believes in his right to own a gun.
At night, he’s “a little bit more at ease” knowing the gun is there.
According to smartgunlaws.org, Michigan ranks 10th in the nation in gun law safety, enacting “a modest amount” of laws to prevent gun violence. Some of these laws include policies that ensure police are notified when a Michigan resident buys a gun and requires gun owners to report stolen firearms.
After the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook, gun control became a common talking point in the news, in Congress and at MSU. Now, university officials and legislators are reflecting on preventing similar tragedies from ever striking the MSU community.
University spokesman Kent Cassella said MSU has specific plans in place if an active shooter situation should arise on campus.
For safety reasons, officials declined to give plan specifics.
Each department practices its own safety procedures regularly, and once a year MSU officials hold a full-scale exercise.
Last summer, Ingham County officials teamed up to practice an active-shooter simulation in East Neighborhood. After blank shots were fired in Conrad Hall’s auditorium, volunteers playing the role of victims fled the building as police practiced securing a chaotic situation and paramedics treated mock victims.
Although plans are in place, MSU police detective Jerry Roudebush said in his 14 years at MSU, gun violence is rare in this area.
East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy echoed this belief — although gun violence is not unheard of.
“Things like what happened at Sandy Hook just bring (the subject of guns) to the forefront,” he said.
Cassella said although he’s never experienced a shooting on campus during his six years at the university, MSU is ready.
“I have complete confidence in our police and our first responders here,” he said. “It’s one of those things we train for … But you pray you never have to (use.)”
As Americans grieved for Newtown, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill during winter break permitting concealed guns in more public places.
The bill would have permitted gun-owners with additional training to carry concealed weapons in schools, stadiums, day care centers and churches.
Snyder expressed concern that the provisions of the bill would not allow public institutions the freedom to prohibit guns in their building.
“While the bill’s goal is to help prevent needless violence, Michigan will be better served if we view it through a variety of lenses,” he said in a statement.
“A thoughtful review that examines issues such as school emergency policies, disenfranchised youth and mental health services may lead to more answers and better safeguards.”
Some members of Michigan’s legislature voiced opposition to Snyder’s decision.
Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said although he felt the bill could have further protected Michigan residents, it would not stop gun violence completely.
“It also is unfortunate that this veto does not make Michigan citizens safer in gun-free zones,” he said. “Neither the governor’s approval nor his veto will stop evil from preying on innocent people.”
Snyder did sign a bill that would require Michigan residents to get a criminal background check to obtain a gun permit, regardless of where and how they buy it.
Recent discussions about guns have sparked controversy not only in the legislature, but on campus as well.
Food industry management senior Brandon Achtman works at a bank where armed robberies have occurred in the past, but he’s never considered owning a gun.
He said politicians should take a close look at how many and what kinds of guns people can own as new legislation is discussed.
“I don’t think teachers should have guns in the classroom,” he said. “I don’t think that a mom should have an assault rifle.”
Gardner said he understands the grief following the Sandy Hook shooting, but he still believes it would be unethical to outlaw owning a gun.
He said anti-gun activists are creating fear by using incidents, like those at Sandy Hook, to move their agenda forward. Gardner said making guns illegal is not the solution to isolated incidents, but rather gun education.
“Why not education on how to handle (guns) properly?” Gardner said. “Lack of education … creates fear.”
Murphy and Mitchell both said the best thing students can do to prevent an active shooter situation is to make sure they report any suspicious activity that they see, as there are usually signs leading up to gun violence.
“If it’s strange enough to get your attention, it’s probably strange enough to call,” Murphy said, adding that it applies to more than just gun violence.
“And you’re not hurting anything.”