When I tell people that any public place is a potential target for a bad situation, I don’t say it lightly. Sporting events have increased their security details in the last few years, Department of Homeland Security presence isn’t an uncommon thing in any large public gathering or event, and active shooter drills are now a regular occurrence along with fire, hurricane, and tornado drills.
While killing time before my morning class, I received an email with the subject line “Quinsigamond Community College receives shooter threat” with the link to a story. Since the story had still been developing at the time I clicked on it, it only mentioned that a threat had been communicated. When I Googled up the story prior to writing this article, it mentioned that there were multiple threats communicated.
Normally, my reaction to active shooter situations or threats in school areas is to admonish the anti-gun narrative that soon follows. This time around, I hung my head. As you’ll note from the article, the college is in Massachusetts – a state without a gun culture.
I was employed by them for a few years, and for the first few, their campus police weren’t armed. If your jaw is dropping after reading that sentence, you’ll hang your head when I tell you that there was a significant portion of the college employees that opposed arming them.
I recall reading the school’s newspaper where the topic was discussed, and a student sought out to get the opinions on this new controversial idea. I even recall being asked my opinion of the issue. Being an employee at the time, I had to regulate my answer, but I only recall stating that I supported the idea. The article I recall reading featured both sides of the discussion.
Those who opposed it offered arguments such as (a) We’ve never had a problem that Worcester Police couldn’t handle, (b) the campus has always been a safe place to learn without the police carrying guns, and (c) if they are arming them, is there a larger problem that we aren’t aware of?
In case you’re wondering, their paper did print the opinion of one student who was livid that campus police hadn’t been armed from day one.
Those who supported it offered arguments of (a) Campus police know the layout of the campus more intimately and can offer a faster reaction time, (b) they’re already sworn police officers with full arrest powers; carrying guns would only be common sense, (c) arming them would bring them in line with other state colleges that had already armed their force.
Well, they eventually decided after deliberation to arm them. If I had a nickel for all the negative comments and rants that pervaded the campus after the decision was publicized, my student debt to UWM would be resolved. I even remember some faculty expressing a sense of fear to me about the situation. Even though my stance on the matter was well-known among my colleagues, I had to put on the appearance of neutrality.
Normally, incremental exposure to something that makes you anxious will lessen the symptoms, but in this case, it wouldn’t come as easily. I resigned from the college in June of 2015, a little over two years after they armed their police force, and I still heard the murmuring of faculty who still were uneasy with an armed police force. Knowing that weapons training is part of the police academy, you and I would think it only makes sense that a sworn police officer would make a gun part of their tool kit. There’s even a separate statute that allows for the employment of campus police officers that gives them the same power and duty of a municipal officer.
I say this often in conversation: This is Massachusetts I speak of, and they have a propensity for doing things different than most.
If you can imagine their reaction to arming their own police force, you can imagine how these people would react to campus carry legislation. I did talk to some of the officers about the prospect, and as expected, it was opposed, but I still like getting opinions.
Returning to the article about the threat of a school shooting.
I tell you that side story because upon reading that the college had received threats, I hung my head. The gesture wasn’t out of “it hitting close to home,” but rather because the stereotype of the Bay State is that nobody has guns (the numerous smaller gun shops and the only Cabela’s in the state says otherwise). There aren’t signs on buildings entrances forbidding weapons possession because of the cultural taboo of guns in the state. When the student handbooks from 2012-2015 were published, I flipped through the book, and sure enough under Weapons and Firearms Policy are the magic words, “With the exception of authorized law enforcement, no weapons or firearms are allowed.” Intellectually, I know that the policy will be there, and I know that if that policy were to be removed, it wouldn’t be a secret.
I worked a number of closing shifts where my duty was to go building-to-building and verify that classroom equipment was properly powered off. Though there was sufficient lighting, walking across a dark campus can be creepy, and going through empty and hallways whose only lighting was motion sensors can add to it. Despite having a two-way radio that I could have used to call campus police for backup if I ran into trouble, there were a number of nights where I would have felt safer if I could have concealed a pistol in an IWB.
I always had full confidence in the police force of the college to create and ensure a safe environment. Despite the previous paragraph, I never felt unsafe on campus, but I’ve always been an independent spirit who values the idea of taking care of himself.
Police officers go through far more training than I ever will, but their job is to ensure the safety and security of the campus, and they cannot be everywhere. We call paramedics when there’s a medical emergency, and yet a Google search will turn up locations that offer CPR training on a regular basis since it is encouraged for people to learn first aid to be that first line of defense. We call fire departments whenever a fire breaks out, yet fire extinguishers are available almost everywhere, and fire departments are always happy to show people how to use them. You would think that police departments would offer firearms training so that people would be more encouraged to take situations into their own hands.