School shootings heighten safety awareness
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 23:02
Recent school shootings across the U.S. have heightened some Ohio State students’ concerns about campus safety.
A University of Maryland student shot two of his housemates in an off-campus residence on Tuesday before killing himself. According to The New York Times one of his housemates died as a result of injuries.
A shooting also occurred at Lone Star College in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 22 that resulted in the hospitalization of four people, at least one of whom was carrying a student ID. The incident was reported by ABC to have occurred as the result of a fight that broke out between two males in a campus courtyard.
A Dec. 14 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., shocked the nation when it left 20 children and six staff members dead, according to multiple reports.
These types of crimes appear to be more frequent in recent years. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred in 2007 at Virginia Tech when a man killed more than 30 people before killing himself, and some OSU students worry about the possibility of one happening in Columbus.
“I think it’s just as likely to happen here as it is to happen anywhere else,” said Merilee Newsham, a graduate student in economics. “There’s no way to protect against random acts of violence. If someone wants to (commit a crime), they will.”
Some students said OSU lacks the power to improve student’s feelings of personal safety.
Joe Smith, an OSU student in security and intelligence and president of Buckeyes for Concealed Carry On Campus, is one such student.
“Ohio State can’t do anything to make the campus safer,” Smith said. “The only person that’s going to be able to ensure your safety is yourself. That’s why (Buckeyes for Concealed Carry on Campus) think you should be able to defend yourself with a firearm.”
According to figures from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, almost 49,000 licenses for concealed carry were issued from the first to third quarters of 2012 while more than 8,500 licenses were renewed. There were more than 57,500 licenses for concealed carry in Ohio at the end of the third quarter.
Statistics for the fourth quarter of 2012 were not immediately available.
Despite these numbers, firearms are prohibited on campus in section 3335-23-04 (E) of the Student Code of Conduct. OSU’s rule lines up with an Ohio law that prohibits licensed, concealed handguns in various locations including colleges and universities.
The Student Code states, “Storage or possession of dangerous weapons … including, but not limited to, firearms, ammunition … unless authorized by an appropriate university official (is prohibited).”
Smith said nothing can prevent a person with bad intentions from bringing a loaded weapon onto a college campus, and the allowance of licensed firearms at OSU would be most beneficial for specific groups of people such as women, who he said are sometimes targeted because of their generally small stature. Multiple women were the victims of armed robberies during Fall Semester.
On Aug. 26, a female student was the victim of an armed robbery outside of Hitchcock Hall, and on Aug. 23, a female and two male students were also victims of an armed robbery that occurred at East 16th and Waldeck avenues.
However, neither President E. Gordon Gee nor OSU Police Chief Paul Denton agrees with Smith. Gee opposes guns on campus.
“Not as long as I’m president. I am totally, unequivocally opposed,” Gee said in a Sept. 10 interview with The Lantern. “I think that it is a horrible idea on a university campus for people to be carrying guns. Period.”
Denton agreed with Gee in a September interview with The Lantern.
“In the event of an active, hostile shooter, having other armed individuals on campus will only complicate an already confusing and difficult situation,” he said.
While some OSU students are fearful of the possibility of danger, not all feel as though campus is any less safe than it was prior to recent school shootings.
Colton Weiss, a third-year in speech and hearing science, said he has never felt particularly at risk.
“With (University Police) and Columbus (Division of) Police working together, I’ve never felt unsafe on OSU’s campus,” Weiss said. “I’ve always had some sense of security.”
Fall Semester a mutual aid agreement between University police and Columbus Police was enacted, which gives University Police authority to respond to emergency situations in the University District, a power it only had before with the permission of the Columbus Police. Under the guidelines of a previous mutual aid agreement, each force was not permitted to act independently in the other’s territory.
Trevor Belt, a fifth-year in political science, said because of the steps OSU takes to secure its campus, he also feels safe, but acknowledged that a shooting could still occur with a licensed or unlicensed firearm.
“There’s always the scenario where someone with a gun snaps,” he said.