Letter to the Editor: What do we do with guns

After hearing about the campus shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, I was shocked and felt furious on the brutal killing of innocent children and adults. This was “America’s second-deadliest campus shooting incident which left 28 dead including 20 children”, according to Economics Times. Over the last 20 years, over 100 people have died and about two-dozen injured in the campus shootings across the US with the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 being the deadliest claiming 33 lives.
We have to prevent these tragedies from happening again since campus shootings not only cause tremendous casualty but also threaten our public security. Several approaches might be effective to prevent campus shooting, including gun control, better training for staff and students, improving infrastructures, and hiring more security guards.
Gun control is no doubt the best solution for preventing campus shooting. David Hemenway argues “a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries” If the shooters cannot get weapons easily, the incidence of shooting will decrease dramatically. Australia has become a good model for the U.S. Between the mid-1970’s and the mid-1990’s, Australia had several mass shootings. After a particularly horrible massacre in 1996, a new prime minister, John Howard, declared that enough was enough. He instituted a severe crackdown on gun ownership, and forced would-be gun owners to submit to a rigorous application process, and to document why they would need a gun. Howard’s government also implemented a rigorous buyback policy, to enable the government to purchase guns already owned by the public. His policy worked. Although violent crime has not ended in Australia, murders are down, and, even more dramatically, there has not been a single mass shooting since 1996 in which three or more people died (the definition used in many studies of mass shootings). According to Jeffrey Sachs, “before the crackdown, there had been 13 such massacres in 18 years.”
However, gun lobbyists would argue that gun ownership constitutes a vital protection against government tyranny. This thought was based on the fact that put forth by Sachs that “The US was born in a citizens’ revolt against British imperial power. The right of citizens to organize militias to fight government tyranny was therefore a founding idea of the new country”. Furthermore, gun lobbyists also argue that most criminals and shooters with psychological problems don’t obey gun laws. John R. Lott argues “Limiting the right of legal gun ownership by passing harsh gun laws would disarm more law-abiding citizens more than the criminals, which meant criminals have less to fear from potential victims.”
Another approach is to provide basic lessons on WHAT to do when a campus shooting happens. At University of San Francisco, campus police gave a very important lesson that open to all faculties, staffs, and students right after the Virginia Tech shooting. In this lesson, five basic strategies are taught. The basic strategies for survival are as follows: “1. Escape! 2. Take cover. Get behind something that will stop a bullet and look for chances to escape, such as when the shooter is reloading his weapon. 3. Hide. Then look for a chance to escape. 4. Play dead and then look for a chance to escape. 5. Attack the attacker as a last resort. Best to catch him by surprise or striking a blow from behind.” Since the beginning of the training, over 100 lessons have been conducted. Not only the police staffs but also the university community benefit from attending this kind of prevention lesson. Besides, the campus police also were trained in the best practices for responding to these incidents and purchased equipment, including shields to protect themselves from bullets.
Hiring more armed security guards in school could be a solution for preventing campus shooting. However, James Fox argued that “the presence of security guard only give a short term impact by making the students feel more safe. But in the long term, the universities and the school boards have to raise tuitions to pay for the extra security.”
In conclusion, to prevent campus shootings is not easy at this moment since we don’t have strict gun control in the US. However, we still can do something to prevent massive casualties when campus shootings happen by providing training to the staff and students, campus police, and hiring more security guards.

Zhiyong Fan
Junior biology major