NDSU, Demand Active Shooter Training

Gun violence is a heated topic. People are sick of the pointless death and are horrified by the prospect of this simple question, “Will it be my school next?”

A mass shooting occurring on North Dakota State’s campus is unlikely, but the chance will never be zero. The current state of politics gives us no faith either. People would rather hop on political sides instead of dealing with the actual problem; people are dying.

People are left to wonder if and when the next attack is going to happen. We are left to pray that it doesn’t happen on a friend’s campus, or God forbid our own.

Why not prepare for it? A small chance is still a chance. Why not have mandatory safety training for NDSU students in the event of an active shooter? Why not have students know what to do, if the worst thing imaginable happened here?

A voice of someone who doesn’t like guns

Marisa Mathews identifies as a Democratic Socialist and believes gun control is a band-aid to a much bigger issue.

Marisa Mathews, a junior majoring in sociology and minoring in women and gender studies (who also happens to be a fellow Californian), sat down with me to discuss the ever-heated gun control debate.

Mathews, a democratic socialist, points to several key issues with the gun control debate. She finds herself conflicted, noting that any new gun control laws would most likely affect people of color more than any other group of people. Considering the statistics on prison population and drug arrests, this seems like a fair conclusion to draw.

Furthermore, the issue deepens when we look at who mass shooters generally are, isolated white males. Gun control debates rarely attempt to explain why, which according to Mathews is the real issue.

Mathews points out that toxic masculinity is the true issue.

“We need to eventually teach boys how to deal with their emotions.” While noting that gun control is needed, Mathews believes that it is simply a Band-Aid to a much bigger issue. “We need to completely heal the wound.”

Gun control may be a temporary fix, one that doesn’t quell Mathews’ feelings on guns, noting people’s right to have them and use them, but also stating rather passionately her distaste for guns.

“I don’t like guns at all … I understand other people’s want to have them … I don’t like the idea they are specifically designed for killing.” Mathews’ beliefs are a fair point, considering the number of accidents every year, including horrible headlines. It is understandable to want to be removed from that possibility as much as possible.

Mathews noted she personally knew people who were in Las Vegas during the shooting that left close to 500 people hurt.  That shooting ranks as one of the largest mass shootings in U.S. history.

The feelings of being vulnerable after that event makes us all, including Mathews, wonder what if.

“Every day I wonder if my mom will get a call saying this school (NDSU) was shot up … and I shouldn’t be worried about that.”  Her fear is warranted and shared. The feeling of ‘never here’ is foolish and ignorant.

Mathews notes, though, that she is not a gun expert or a gun control expert.

In a nation where nothing ever seems to get done over this issue we are left to wonder, what role should politics play in this life and death debate?

“Politics is everything. It’s personal … Healthcare is personal. Education is personal. Gun control is personal.” However, Mathews told me politics has allowed money to cause stagnation on this debate. The National Rifle Association (NRA) spent over $5 million in 2017 lobbying politicians. This according to Mathews has gotten in the way of any sensible change.

Mathews points out that her conservative friends agree on the principle of gun control with her, like better background checks for instance. We all want the same thing — fewer people dying.

“There is a stigma of changing your mind in politics.” The average person wants logical change, conservatives and liberals alike, but that isn’t happening.

So what about mandatory active shooter training?

First, what is active shooter training? NDSU has purchased the license to use a 20-minute-long video that details what to do if the worst-case scenario happens here at our university. What I am asking is for that training video, along with any other helpful resource provided by the University Police and Safety Office, be made mandatory for students to participate in.

Think the sexual assault training we take when we are freshmen, make active shooter training mandatory like that. Mathews, like many others, agrees with this.

“We as a campus need to take an organized step to make this happen,” adding that this could break the stagnation we have on this issue.

“We shouldn’t feel unsafe on our campus.” Active shooter training for all students gives us a much better chance at life and could save lives.

Not to mention the statement it would make, Congress won’t protect us? Well, we will.

The voice of someone who wants conceal and carry on campus

Arthur Dobbs, who works at a gun store, talked to me about conceal and carry training.

Arthur Dobbs, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, happens to work at a gun store.

He noted that he did not wear a shirt for a gun company on purpose, just sort of a coincidence.

“I am right in the middle of it.” Working at a gun store, he told me he’s heard all the arguments. Some better than others, he noted.

“I have people who shout at me.” Dobbs doesn’t plan on changing anyone’s mind. He knows how small those chances are. He never raises his voice either, noting though that he does enjoy debating this topic.

Dobbs isn’t opposed to sensible gun control across the board for the nation either.

“I would like to see it where it is more consistent across the board, but it does make sense that states that have a higher gun crime rate that they have a stricter process.” He also notes that gun control is right where it needs to be.

Like many others, Dobbs fears his opposition’s stance, a perceived stance on outlawing all guns and a belief that no one needs a gun.

“They’re right in a sense; you don’t need a firearm … I hunt. I like to feel protected … I want to feel protected … For me at least, that is a firearm.”

As a law-abiding citizen, Dobbs has taken the steps to have firearms and believes that him owning guns isn’t the problem.

A problem he points to is the media’s portrayal of the issue, noting that politicians release strict gun control legislation after national tragedies in an attempt to “cover their ass.”

“It’s not needed, but I see why they are doing that.” There seems to be a divide between the politicians that are making the laws and those that have more educated opinions according to Dobbs.

Like so many of us, Dobbs notes that change is unlikely in this debate.

“People are so bullheadish with this issue.” In a remark that sounds almost identical to a statement by Mathews, Dobbs told me about the current state of politics.

“Rarely do you see that side, one just come together and actually talk about it,” Dobbs notes that people pick sides and that is where they stand. He notes though that the Constitution has gotten skewed slightly over time.

“You are always going to have your die-hard people, ‘we need no guns, get guns out of this country’ and those Second Amendment clingers that it’s our right to.

“I do believe in the Second Amendment; there’s people who just bleed it … and I do believe in it, but it’s taken out of context and the true meaning is getting skewed, to the point where it sounds like you’re just arming yourself … that’s not what the second amendment means.”

Dobbs pointed to the history of the Second Amendment, stating that it was meant to stop a tyrannical government.

“Now would the citizens of the United States with all the firearms they have be able to outmatch the government … absolutely not.”

Dobbs agrees with Mathews on the fact that universities must do more to educate their students on the very real threat of an active shooter situation on campus. He, however, sees a different approach.

“A lot of people that are anti-gun hate this suggestion … I would like to conceal and carry on campus.” Dobbs, a conceal and carry permit holder, took me through what concealed and carry training actually teaches.

“Everything in a concealed and carry course that you take when you obtain your license is run, run, run … do everything you can do before you pull that firearm. You are not a vigilante … you are there to use a firearm at the last possible moment.”

For me at least, this is something I was unaware of. The fear of a vigilante taking out an active shooter and adding another gun to an already violent situation should be a pipedream according to this training. It isn’t offensive; it is defensive. This is reassuring in a sense.

Dobbs claims to not be an expert on gun control or guns themselves despite his knowledge.

As far as the suggestion on mandatory active shooter training, Dobbs is on board.

“The more you can prepare for something you hope never happens the better you’ll be when it actually happens.” This training according to him would be beneficial, even if it causes some anxiety in people, something that professors have worried about in showing active shooter training.

According to a survey by the department of emergency management, an anonymous professor stated, “I’m not persuaded the students would benefit from this — some of whom are sensitive, or will have an extreme emotional reaction.”

According to Dobbs, this emotional response is outweighed by the value that training like this adds. He added emotional responses can occur during alcohol training or sexual assault training, but we persevere through that because it is important to know.

Likewise, this belief is shared by Mathews who noted that active shooter training may cause anxiety and emotional responses from students.

“Yes, but I don’t think that’s bad. I think we should be anxious about it. The more people are anxious about it, the more people are going to do something about it.”

Mandatory active shooter training 

Carol Cwiak from the emergency management department debunked the ‘it couldn’t happen here’ thought.

This heated topic doesn’t just affect one political side or race. Most rational people want something to change, as evident by the students’ responses. To pretend otherwise is delirious and is stopping much-needed change.

People are dying. Let’s take steps in the right direction. The first step we can make is education.

Making mandatory active shooter training part of our academic careers is a step we can make and a move that almost everyone can get behind.

According to William Vandal, chief of police at NDSU’s police department, although the chances are small, the threat warrants active training on the police’s part every year.

“We make it as realistic as possible.” Vandal tells me they have worked with many offices on campus to administer active shooter training, something that has been lacking for students.

Lt. Adam Walter told me that roughly 15 people took safety training this year, or roughly 0.001 percent of NDSU’s population of 14,358. To say we are uneducated is an understatement.

Vandal told me though that he can’t force people to show up to his training. “I can’t track down 14,000 students and make them do the training.” So why not make it mandatory?

Carol Cwiak, from the department of emergency management, told me the training is currently accessible for all NDUS accounts, however, this training is not mandatory for students or faculty.

Cwiak told me about a fear she has, that students may assume that faculty knows what to do in an active shooter situation. This notion is most likely incorrect.

“You need to know for yourself.” Cwiak said the training aids in other situations as well, not just on campus, noting active shooter situations can happen anywhere.

“We have to be thinking what we would do in that situation … we are all foolish if we think it can’t happen here.” To believe that gun violence could not happen on campus, according to Cwiak, is “checking out of reality.”

“Training we know helps.” According to Cwiak, there is no situation where a lack of training is better.

Cwiak also noted that since our population is transient and contains many people from all around the world, the question is worth asking. Does NDSU have a responsibility to make sure we all have a basic understanding of safety? Fire drills, for instance, are not part of every country’s requirement.

“That student is especially vulnerable.” And what about lockdown situations that U.S. kids may have? Again, international students are often uneducated in the matter.

“It’s just plain common sense.” Even in the best-case scenario, Cwiak said there are precious minutes between first shots and the police response. Mandatory active shooter training could mean the difference between life and death in those minutes.

Now, I will not pretend that this is the end all be all. That isn’t my opinion or my belief. What I do believe though, is that nothing seems to change when these tragedies happen. It is sickening.

I felt exposed and terrified on Monday, Oct. 2, the day following the Las Vegas shooting. With video being provided from these horrific events, doesn’t the threat seem real enough now to demand something change? Isn’t the threat enough to abandon party lines and ask for sensible change now?

Our government has stagnated on this. Sensible change can start with active shooter training. This is something that could save lives, and at the end of the day isn’t that what we all want?

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