Lessons learned from Umpqua

By James Silberman Some things in life are difficult to accept, with the existence of evil being probably the most difficult. But as much as we want to go about our lives smelling the roses and having a good time, it is foolish to live life without the proper safeguards for when evil inevitably does rear its ugly head.

College campuses have been an unfortunate hotspot for deadly shootings over the past few decades. This is a fact we have to confront. That doesn’t mean living in fear, but it does mean being prepared.

According to the Whitworth Student Bill of Rights, guns are prohibited on campus. This applies not only to students and faculty, but to security officers as well. This begs the question, if students are told they can’t protect themselves and campus security are disarmed, if there were to be an active shooter on campus, what is to stop him or her from killing people?

Google maps estimates that the Spokane Police Department is a fifteen minute drive from Whitworth’s campus with no traffic. It is reasonable to assume that police could make the trip in seven to eight minutes, but it would also take a few minutes for people to realize that a shooter was on campus. That gives a potential armed assailant roughly ten minutes do as much damage as they can; hardly an ideal response to such a serious situation.

Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon discovered this the hard way in October of 2015 when a gunman killed 10 people and injured nine more. According to former president of the school, Joe Olson, prior to the 2015–16 school year, there was contentious debate within the administration and student body over whether armed security would be present on campus. In the end, Umpqua opted to employ a single, unarmed guard who was obviously unable to provide the needed protection.

The only defense they did have was former Joint Base Lewis-McChord army veteran, Chris Mintz. Without a weapon, Mintz was still able to prevent more damage by running into the hall and pulling a fire alarm before making his way back to his classroom and confronting the shooter face-to-face. He tried to keep the door shut as the gunman attempted to enter, but was unsuccessful and Mintz was shot five times. Miraculously, he survived and is able to tell the story.

Judging from his Instagram account, Mintz is a gun enthusiast. If he had been allowed to concealed carry, as a former member of the Army, there is no question that he would have been able to stop the shooter completely.

This is a similar situation to that of Whitworth, with our officers being unarmed and practically unable to respond adequately should something tragic happen. Additionally, the Roseburg Police Department  is only 10 minutes from campus without traffic, much closer than Spokane Police Department is to Whitworth. Still, at Umpqua the shooter was still able to kill ten people.

There is evil in the world, and every person alive has the right to self-preservation. That being said, there are good arguments to be made for why students shouldn’t be allowed to carry firearms on campus. We are at Whitworth to learn, and carrying a gun around could be a distraction. Also, having possibly untrained people responding to an active shooter situation could make it worse.

However, I do not think there is any defensible argument for not having armed security guards. As long as they know only to use lethal force in the case of an active shooter or some other life or death situation, there is no legitimate downside that I can see. Surely there is no downside that outweighs the possible costs if something were to happen?

It is understandable if the university does choose to prohibit students from protecting themselves. But if Whitworth does prohibit concealed carry, that means that it is solely responsible for our protection. If the school fails to provide that protection, then the university should be held liable for the damage done should tragedy strike.

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