Guns on campus: an issue of comfort or safety?

by Cougar News Contributor 1,012 views0

By Mercy Kowalski

The devastation of outliving your child is even greater when their life was taken in their own classroom, where they are supposed to be taught, feel safe and make lifelong friends.

A single action by a fellow student could change the course of your life forever, and cut a child’s life short.

Schools are asking what they can do to prevent these tragedies, but while they debate on what to do, more lives are being lost. Many people are proposing solutions, but it all comes down to choosing a solution and putting it into effect.

“How can we trust a teacher with no qualified experience to protect us when we can barely trust a police officer? Giving the teachers the right to bear arms could put students at more risk,” said Khadija Alsup, a COC student.

With school shootings being a more common trend, students and staff have opposing views as to what the campus should do to ensure student and staff safety.

In the first five months of 2018, there have been approximately 23 school shootings where someone has either been injured or have lost a life.

Due to such events continuously taking place, school shootings are now the biggest threat to community college students and staff members all around the United States.

Nonetheless, with how often school shootings are occurring, society has become desensitized to their outcomes because society finds them to be perpetual.

However, past school shootings were not looked at as perpetual, but rather horrific and shocking.

For example, 1999’s Columbine High School massacre was one of the most infamous school shootings in U.S. history.

This concerned the public to a higher extent because back in the day a school shooting had never been so severe and had not yet taken place.

In more recent years, 2007’s Virginia Tech shooting and the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have been two of the most deadly mass shootings in United States’ history. To avoid similar circumstances at COC, it is important that the campus is proactive rather than reactive from past occurrences.

While COC is in the midst of trying to achieve appropriate safety precautions there is concern as to how the College Board of Trustees is to do so. Specifically, there has been talk from both staff and students about arming professors and security guards with guns.

California is one of 16 states that have banned concealed carrying of guns on campus grounds, so arming professors would be highly unlikely and not an immediate solution.

“Currently, College of the Canyons is in the process of studying whether to add an armed presence to its campus safety efforts, and what form that might take. While several options have been reviewed, arming professors is not among them,” said COC PIO Eric Harnish. “A final decision has not been made about whether to add an armed presence to the campus. A decision is expected within the next few months and will be presented to the college’s board of trustees for consideration.”

While some staff and students are relieved knowing their COC professors will not be armed, others say they feel unprotected. This puts into question as to who might be allowed to carry on campus in case of an active shooter.

COC has many options to strengthen their security staff; however, the most viable option is borrowing school resource deputies from Hart High School and stationing them at COC.

If this doesn’t work, the school is considering an option that would create an independent police department that is comprised of current campus safety officers.

If COC uses one of these alternatives, it ultimately comes down to cost.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department says it would be very costly to have deputies participating on campus full time, whereas arming security at the school would be more affordable because they are all prior law enforcement officers.

Campus Safety is required to have a minimum of two year’s experience as a POST certified Peace Officer of law enforcement training in case they are put in the position of having to arrest or detain individuals until local law enforcement can arrive.

Because there could be possible altercations on the campus, COC would have to worry about liability insurance if they did make their security guards a private police team, according to a campus authority.

“Between everyone at our unit we have over 100 years of law enforcement experience under our belt. We’re all former police officers and in order to work here we have to be police officers but we’re also required to have our security guard card from BSIS, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. So we’re actually held to their standards, this is extremely strict,” said a campus security guard.

While staff and students often seem to disagree, the idea of former law enforcement protecting the campus is more relieving than the idea of professors.

Nevertheless, security guards are held to high standards, responsibilities and requirements that they must follow to ensure the best for the campus and its members.

According to the BSIS website to carry guns on campus a security guard must have written authorization from their employer, giving them permission to carry a weapon while on duty. The security guards must have an exposed firearm permit issued by the bureau as well.

While COC security is properly trained, the campus is still undecided about allowing their security to carry guns, leaving them unarmed until further notice.

“Campus police should be allowed to open carry. Having well trained and armed safety personals in school will reduce the number of school shootings by dissuading school shooters from entering properties where they know they will be stopped by deadly force. Quick response by armed personnel will lessen the amount of death and carnage brought forth by school shooter.” said David Stevenson, a communications professor at COC.

Regardless of who may be granted the responsibility for carrying a firearm on COC campus, it is relieving to many members who attend the college that it is being addressed in a safe and reasonable manner.

Leaving those who are confident, educated and trained thoroughly about gun safety prevents potential consequences and eerie outcomes. Plus knowing that security abides by a set of school laws and regulations gives peace of mind to members at COC that security will not take advantage of their power.

Knowing that an on duty police officer or campus safety officer could be carrying a weapon, regardless if it is concealed or not, could potentially stop the chances of someone who may have the impression that they can bring a weapon to school and try putting the students in imminent danger.

Overall, it all comes down to what is in the best benefit of those who attend as well as educate on campus. No member of COC should ever be threatened when wanting to pursue an education or teach others.

Over the next few months, the board of trustees will be working to find a solution to this matter. By the time the fall semester starts, those attending campus will have a conclusion as to whether or not their campus safety will be armed with the presence of guns.

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