Thousands of people participated in protests across the country. (Courtesy of Politifact)
Since the shooting in Parkland, Fla. a conversation has erupted throughout campus. As with every mass shooting, the recent tragedy in Florida has stirred feelings of stress and hopelessness among people across campus and the nation. Most of the student population is realizing “thoughts and prayers” is not going to make us safe.
The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are speaking up in a time of turmoil in our nation are determined to make this the last mass shooting in America. Emma Gonzales, a senior at the high school, spoke at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Saturday, Feb. 17. Emma raised the point that in Florida, a permit or gun license is not required to purchase or even register a weapon.
In America, we must be 18 to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, 21 to buy alcohol, 25 to rent a car, but yet there is no federal minimum age requirement to purchase a firearm.
Jaclyn Corin, a junior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was quoted on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd saying “We took 17 bullets to the heart. And we’re the only ones who can speak up. We have to be adults in this situation, because clearly people have failed us in the government.”
The Parkland event has sparked opinions among UMass Lowell students about what course of action government officials should take to prevent more shootings.
Curtis Bouchea, president of UMass Lowell College Republicans, voiced his belief that states should adopt stricter background checks and should end gun free zones. “Schools should have an armed guard or faculty member” claims Bouchea. “We must create stricter regulations on background checks. We must look at stricter mental health checks. We must ensure that our schools are safe” said Bouchea.
Vice President of UMass Lowell College Democrats Julie Lawton believes that immediate and strict gun reform is the solution that can heal our nation. “We need to ban assault rifles,” says Lawton. “These should not be able to get into the hands of any American who is not an official trained on this weapon.” Lawton says, “After a mass shooting in Australia in 1999, they started their gun buyback program. Since that law has been implemented in Australia, there have been 0 school shootings.”
UMass Lowell junior and BLA major, Darren McFadden is not convinced of recent suggestions to arm school teachers. He said “A buyback program may take more time, but will be more effective than just covering up the issue by supplying teachers with guns.”
Amelia Desjardins, senior and psychology major at UMass Lowell thinks we need common sense gun reform. “Background checks and mental health screenings are certainly not an invasion of privacy, and I think if you want to have a gun for the right reason (personal protection) passing such tests should make you proud, not offended.”
Few may have noticed, but on campus there are a number of “what to do incase of an active shooter” posters scattered. The recent events also made the student body wonder, just how safe is UMass Lowell?
Campus Resources Officer William Emmons of University Police has been at UMass Lowell for four years and served as an officer in Hudson, N.H. for 20 years before joining UMass Lowell. Emmons explained that the shooting in Parkland, Fla. did not change the UMass Lowell policy for public safety. “No, it didn’t change much for us. Unlike a high school, you can’t really close [campus] off.”
While this explanation may leave one feeling hopeless with the possibility of an active shooter, Emmons said there are extensive measures in place at UMass Lowell that serve to protect students and faculty.
“We have over 600 cameras on campus and we also follow up on everything sent to us. If we understand a student is suicidal or is making statements that are odd or freighting we definitely step up and look into it,” said Emmons.
Emmons also described ways in which students can serve as a proactive hand on campus.
“A big thing is social media and things like that. We can’t monitor everything and we cannot see everything. We need [people on campus] to not be dismissive of ‘oh that person will never do something.’ We as the police can’t do it alone. We can be very reactive to things but we also like to be proactive,” said Officer Emmons.
“The last thing you want is to be caught in something like that and not know how to react. Mental preparation is a huge thing,” said Emmons. He went on to explain the university offers free public classes to students who want to take a preparation class in the event of an active shooter on campus. They are hosted frequently and new sessions can be found at uml.edu/EEM/Training-schedule/.
Students can express their views to their representative in Congress by going to callyourrep.co to find their contact information.