The United States has witnessed 273 mass shootings in 2018 as of Wednesday Sept. 24, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The gravity of this statistic demands solemnity and for Americans to reckon with the country’s perverse, pervasive gun culture—particularly regarding popular toy guns.
The spectacle of Humans vs. Zombies afflicts college campuses annually and offers students—legal adults—the opportunity to engage in a live-action survival fantasy, complete with the use of Nerf guns for “protection.” Geneseo should ban this game due to its insensitivity surrounding the threat of gun violence.
This game displays its tone-deaf optics as Humans vs. Zombies players lack even a small amount of perspective amid our contemporary cultural reckoning with gun violence.
As movements like Everytown for Gun Safety rally for common-sense gun reform, it becomes more imperative to eradicate the sight of blissfully ignorant college students running across campuses with fake weapons. They are consumed by a childish game and—more importantly—disengaged from the uncomfortable resonance of their fantasy.
Students’ lives in 2018 have existed parallel to the escalation of mass shootings from anomaly to regularity. Columbine marked our early lives, Virginia Tech ushered in our elementary school years, Sandy Hook corresponded with the start of high school and Parkland saw us onto college.
Although the majority of students have not suffered these events firsthand, their ramifications have reverberated through our lives and irrevocably tainted our world views. In active shooter drills, we learned to feel suspicious of our fellow students. From adults, we learned to blame and to fear video games, trench coats, certain music genres—even opaque backpacks.
Of course, this particular issue expands beyond the use of toy weapons in school-sanctioned campus activities. Unlike genuine guns, the Nerf equipment employed in Humans vs. Zombies cannot inflict serious injury.
The problem with playing with Nerf guns does not even lie with a perceived violation of “safe spaces” or any comparable demand for intellectual coddling. The problem is not that the Nerf guns affects those who find the prevalence of toy guns, at minimum, distasteful.
Instead, anyone who finds themselves able to disengage from our sociopolitical reality and run around playing the part of active shooter should have nothing short of serious shame and embarrassment for their self-indulgent deafness. We should shroud the symbol of a gun with nothing but somberness to combat the mass shooting epidemic.
In a campus-wide email on Sept. 18, the Humans vs. Zombies Moderator Team described “Nerf blasters,” tactfully avoiding the lightning-rod of “gun” in preemptive attempts to avoid backlash.
Geneseo claims to support inclusivity and civic responsibility in its mission statement; its tacit support of Humans vs. Zombies says otherwise and only continues an abhorrent fetishization of weapons while the nation is in crisis.
The college administration should demand that students practice introspection, develop self-awareness and consider their fixation with toy weapons in a time that demands more serious engagement with how weapons factor into society.