Students consider university, national gun policies following deadly shooting

Members of the Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group protested the lack of effective gun control measures in Washington D.C. on Sept. 19, 2013 (pictured above). The campus community has questioned whether there are better ways to manage gun rules on-campus and throughout the country. (Elvert Barnes/Creative Commons)

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, Geneseo students and staff have begun to evaluate how the college communicates emergency procedures pertaining to guns on-campus as well as nationwide policies.  

The University Police Department is working to continue its outreach with faculty, staff and students, according to Chief of University Police Thomas Kilcullen. UPD has hosted Active Shooter Preparedness Training since May 2016, which campus community members have increasingly attended, Inspector (Interim) Scott Ewanow said.

“We’ve had a fair number of students who have attended that training in the past, and then we continue to make that available,” Ewanow said. “It is something that is open to students at times and will continue to be.”

If an active shooter is on-campus, Kilcullen advises students to “run, hide and fight,” depending on what the specific situation is. Ewanow added that students should silence their cell phones so if they were to contact UPD or other emergency response teams, the shooter would not hear their phones ring.

Additionally, Ewanow encourages students to download and use the Rave Guardian app if faced with an active shooter on-campus or other dangerous conditions. Through this app, students can communicate with UPD officers silently and covertly with a feature similar to texting, Ewanow said. 

The National Rifle Association and some politicians, including President Donald Trump, have advocated arming school teachers to defend against an armed attacker. Based on the laws in New York State, Kilcullen stated that Geneseo would not be able to implement such a policy if the administration wanted to without a change to the state legislature. 

Concurring to the Student Code of Conduct, possessing a firearm on-campus is also illegal, “including but not limited to compressed air guns, air soft guns, pellet, or BB guns.” This no firearms policy is common across all schools in New York State. 

The college has not discussed the possibility of providing faculty or staff members with weapons, according to Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio.

“I have not heard any talk of that on the college level … I know there are some states where professors carry guns,” Bonfiglio said. “I am not a person who has very much familiarity with guns or the gun culture, and I have a sense that it would be extremely difficult for me to envision coming to work every day at a place where there were lots and lots of weapons.”

Students have been reflecting on the latest shooting as well. A group of students walked out of their classrooms at 12 p.m. on Feb. 21 as part of the nationwide walkout movement in response to the shooting. During the protest, students held signs made from manila folders that said “Students against gun violence” and “Reform gun laws.” 

Geophysics major senior Carolien Mossel and adolescent English education major senior Madison Bussmann organized the protest to stand in solidarity with the victims and advocate for gun control. 

“I don’t want to enter the teaching world with this as the baseline,” Bussmann said. “I don’t think that any of us—me or the students—should have that constant fear hanging over our heads. I also never want to bury a student, for any causes. I feel like this is such a preventable thing.”

The walkout brought together students from a variety of backgrounds, according to Mossel.

“What was really interesting to me is that several of the people who joined, they were saying that their families were ‘gun families,’” Mossel said. “Their families have guns, and while they wouldn’t want their families’ guns to be taken away, they do agree that maybe there’s too many guns or not enough restrictions or not enough reforms. They were very happy to stand there with signs that said we need law reform.” 

Theater major junior Lila Klatz, who participated in Geneseo’s walk out, is discouraged with Geneseo’s response to the multiple mass shootings that have occurred. 

“I just think that it’s kind of strange that we’re in an educational setting, and I think one of the most popular education schools in New York State, and there hasn’t been any report from the administrative side,” Klatz said. 

“No one’s really said anything and the president hasn’t released a statement to my knowledge,” Klatz said. “It’s just shocking that [the administration] haven’t done anything.”