Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Shooter trend sets the schools response higher than ever
By Angela Lince
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Just a few days ago, Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, was struck by an unfortunate event. Students and faculty at the college went about their daily lives, until Chris Harper-Mercer, a twenty-six year old, local resident, disturbed the Umpqua day-to-day peace by killing nine people, with a slight press of a trigger.
We’re beginning to live in a world of corruption, where with just the press of a button, we’re watching a new segment of a news panel reviewing yet, another shooting. Looking back at the United States past with school shootings, we’ve come to see that it’s a growing “trend”. This leaves “What if’s” lingering in the air. What would you do in a situation like Umpqua Community college? What about the countless other school shootings, like Sandy Hook which took place Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut? What procedures are put into place, IF this situation occurred in Plattsburgh?
Plattsburgh City School District Superintendent, James Short, finds that the Plattsburgh City School is well-prepared if anything dangerous did occur. All faculty and staff have practiced countless times, the procedure in case an intruder was to enter the school. The school has established a set of ‘barriers’, in which keep the intruder at a slower pace. Buzzing in and having doors locked at all times, is a small, yet important part of the schools safe system.
Reflecting back on the Sandy Hook tragedy, Lanza simply “shot through the plate-glass window next to the lobby door to enter the school. The elementary school’s doors were locked and secure at 9:30 a.m. with a video camera and buzzer system that can allow entry after that time from three monitoring locations,” according to Emily Miller of the Washington Times.
Nothing seems to hold these killers back, but could there be a better tactic? Short believes that keeping the school’s perimeter secure is the first contributor in keeping the school safe. Beyond the grounds of the school, what’s most important is inside. If anyone feels unsafe, a report is immediately sent to the office as well as Plattsburgh City Police, which is then shared with other schools, including local colleges. All faculty and staff are given a warning over the loud speaker. From there, they can distinguish the hoax warning from the real warning. They are then told to lock their doors, shut their lights off and remain quiet and away from “line of sight” areas in the room. If things begin to worsen, or if the physical building itself is unstable, everyone is ordered to evacuate the building, but this is last resort because of the amount of people leaving. This could cause more of an issue than needed.
Plattsburgh City School holds an incredible partnership with the Plattsburgh City Police Department, as well as the SUNY Plattsburgh on-campus police. Every year during summer, Plattsburgh Police uses the Plattsburgh City School building as a training ground, which really eases Shorts mind knowing that the police are familiar with the school. Would it be even more at ease knowing his faculty could possibly be able to carry a gun with them, in case of an issue similar to Oregon or Sandy Hook?
“Police officers, security guards… People that are trained in the profession should hold these positions to protect with guns”, says Short. Short also adds in that if teachers did carry guns, it is possible that they could go missing, which leads to more headaches.
If it’s that easy to lose a gun, how easy is it for killers to retrieve guns? According to New York Times reporters, Larry Buchanan, Josh Keller, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Daniel Victor; Harper-Mercer, bought his fourteen guns legally through a federally licensed firearms dealer, while others were purchased by members of his family. Harper-Mercer was armed with six guns which include a Glock pistol, a Smith & Wesson pistol, a Taurus pistol and a Del-Ton assault rifle, according to The Associated Press. Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother in their home, then killed 26 people, mostly children, using a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and a .22-caliber Savage Mark II rifle, which were both legally obtained and registered by his mother. Lanza was familiar with the guns because his mother would allow him to use them for target shooting at ranges. Who’s to blame here? The guns? The person holding the gun? What about the persons illnesses or things they do to keep occupied, like Lanza’s fascination with violent video games?
Peter Visconti, President of Plattsburgh Rod and Gun Club, holds a strong belief that guns don’t kill people, the people holding the gun is at fault. Visconti has been a gun user for years. In his early life, he was a target shooting champion, which led towards achieving scholarships for his talent. With law enforcement training, as well as NRA training, Visconti has developed a strong understanding for a guns purpose, how to accurately use a gun and the laws regarding the gun.
Target shooting is a “lifetime sport”, says Visconti adding that, “It helps strengthen the mind, body, and helps your ability to focus”. Visconti feels that guns are developing a bad reputation, so for the ones who are responsible with their guns and use them for appropriate purposes only; like hunting for meat to feed your family and save money, their gun use shouldn’t be questioned. But Visconti questions, “Why not arm teachers? Why not use security guards?” Yes, there is a six month lengthy process in receiving the permit to obtain a pistol, but “why not” allow them to protect their students and selves from danger? Have you noticed, most killers use pistols in their killings?
Visconti explains each gun, saying that pistols are used more often because they are a common gun to own. Assault weapons are used more often to “scare” people. They normally have certain devices you attach to the gun, and they are larger in size.
Reflecting back on the Harper-Mercer’s past, recent articles have stated that he has Asperger’s. Visconti feels that mental health plays a big role in the devastating activities brought by criminals, and should be a focus for mental health clinics to seek people in need. Short also felt that it’s a large factor that should be overlooked.
According to the research novel, “School Shootings: International Research, Case Studies, and Concepts for Prevention”, empirical studies often characterize school shooters to be “introverted loners with deficient social skills.” These deficits can be attributed to problems in “their family, their peer group, and their school.” As we collect data that proves this on-going problem to be true, schools want to prevent it from happening by offering adolescents a space that fosters their “psycho-social development”.
Director of Emergency Management for SUNY Plattsburgh, Michael Caraballo, does many things for the campus, one being, assisting the students after a situation, like the Oregon shooting. Caraballo is the “man behind the scenes” which prepares training for the faculty and staff of the college, and handles anything from flooding to fires. Caraballo described the training to be important. “WeComply” is an online program all faculty and staff must accomplish before classed begin. It allows faculty and staff to keep up with any policies that have been changed or have remained. In one of the “WeComply” modules, there is a section on active shooters, which teaches you the basic principles in protecting yourself, as well as the students.
“In the section you have three options; evacuate, hide, and if you can’t do either, you fight”, says Caraballo. Once you’ve completed the program, you’re certificated. SUNY Plattsburgh also offers a campus outreach program where certain individuals like Resident Assistants from living facilities on campus can be trained.
Overall, the Plattsburgh school district, as well as SUNY Plattsburgh, are well equipped and professionally trained in the field of unfortunate events, with or without guns to protect us. There are many resources to contact if you feel in danger, or you feel as if you or a loved one could use help.