In the wake of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School and the subsequent protests and walkouts across schools nationwide, Queens held a deliberative dialogue in the Crown room on March 14 to discuss how best to prevent more mass shootings. Representatives from the faculty, student body, Diversity Inclusion and Community Engagement (DICE), and Health and Wellness were all in attendance.
The dialogue, led by Dean of Students John Downey and Director of DICE Darryl White Sr, proposed three solutions for helping further incidents, then split the attendees up randomly into tables to have them mull over the validity of each solution.
The first idea centered around enforcing stricter gun laws. “They’re not enforcing the laws they already have,” mentioned Diane Steigel, one of the nurses from Health and Wellness. To her point, the concept of full regulation or attempted prohibition of firearm sales was largely rejected by those in attendance. The two leading reasons were failure to enforce these rules and the high volume of guns already in America. Steigel felt a black market would flourish if guns were banned.
“People get ahold of drugs, they get ahold of everything,”said Crystal Dunham, Assistant Director of DICE. “I think they’re going to get ahold of guns.” Others echoed her sentiments. “We’re so saturated with firearms in the U.S, it’s not going to make a difference,” said one attendee.
The second solution centered around around equipping more people with guns, and was met with similar disdain. Arming teachers would only heighten the need to address the country’s current mental health problems, as attendees made note on how their jobs were incredibly demanding yet not very rewarding, which was a poor combination for limiting stress and anxiety. “You never know when somebody is going to snap,” said Ray Thrower, vice president of public safety and campus police.
In addition, an armed person is not as successful at countering a shooter than one may initially perceive. Thrower noted that law enforcement officers’ accuracy with a firearm is 18% under stress. Naturally, law enforcement officers are required to prove their capability with a firearm far more often than regular citizens. According to Thrower, Campus Police on Queens is supplied with ammunition by the school and must conduct a training course with firearms twice a year.
An ordinary North Carolina citizen can obtain a concealed carry permit for handguns after an eight hour class, paid fee, background check and an accuracy test. The permit is valid for five years.
Some attendees added how another potential problem that could arise would be a teacher being shot by law enforcement officers should a mass shooting occur. In all, they felt the risks of arming teachers outweighed the pros. “I would not be comfortable with any teachers having guns,” said freshman Keegan Rapp.
That left the third and final proposed solution: addressing the culture that may be causing mass shootings. The root of where culture could be causing violence (if it even is at all) is a hotly debated topic, and the assembled crowd could not come to a general consensus either. Dunham suggested media attention and sensationalism may be contributing to it, though others pointed out how there have been relatively few copycat mass shootings, despite media attention encouraging this behavior in other areas.
Video games were brushed aside as a potential cause almost immediately. Liz Scott, an intern at DICE, noted that while some individuals may develop more reserved tendencies, such as isolated hours spent gaming, this is not a telltale sign of violent tendencies. “There are certain behaviors between ‘I just like being by myself,’ versus ‘I’m plotting something,’” she said.
Regardless of the source of violence in American culture, the group agreed an effective way to counter it would be more education and awareness. Reaching out to individuals and helping them realize things they see and hear may not always be okay could go a long way. “Just talking about it is very helpful and very insightful,” said Rapp.
Though the path on how to do so may not be clear, tiding the volume of mass shootings across the country is an issue demanding immediate attention. “Somebody is dying every 15 seconds in an active shooter situation until the shooter is stopped or they take their own life, and that’s a problem,” said Thrower. This deliberative dialogue was a first step by Queens to try and make the future safer for its students.