When 32 students died at Virginia Tech University in 2007, congress scrambled to pass laws regarding the status of guns on campuses.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, Michigan State University’s gun ban was overturned in 2009, Colorado State University’s concealed gun ban was appealed in 2010, Oregon University System’s gun ban was overturned in 2011 and University of Colorado’s policy banning guns from campus was overruled in 2012.
Recently, the Arkansas state government has passed a law that has forced UCA to implement a campus carry policy allowing concealed carry on campus, thus adding to the list. However, the debate over gun safety on college campuses is the equivalent of debating how many fi re alarms to install to try to prevent fires.
The laws are reacting to the aftermath of these issues, rather than focusing on their key causes. Ever since the last mass shooting, researchers have been gathering statistics about campus homicides to find underlying causes and look for solutions.
The statistics imply that school shootings are correlated with a negative mental state. Correlating school shootings with the mental health of the shooter is nothing revolutionary. Studies have been linking mental health to school shootings from the beginning.
However, the way this information is treated is far from ideal. In media, and to an extent in society at large, mental health problems are used as an excuse: the shooter had a mental health problem, so there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t control their mind, so we should work on something we can control — guns!
However, the type of mental health problems relating to school shooters aren’t beyond control. The Safe School Initiative Report studied 37 incidents of “targeted school-based violence” between 1974 and 2000 where the perpetrator was from the school he attacked.
According to the study, 98 percent of attackers said they experienced a major loss prior to the shooting, in 73 percent of the incidents, the attackers had a grievance with one or more of their targets and 71 percent of attackers felt “persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured” prior to the shooting.
Essentially, in a vast majority of the cases, the student had faced, or perceived to have faced, some form of loss or bullying before the event. The type of mental health referenced in the study concerns the shooter’s state of mind prior to the shooting.
Therefore, focus needs to be put into how to prevent that state of mind in the first place instead of debating how guns play into that. That focus can be implemented by encouraging mental health programs in schools, providing counseling services and offering strategies to maintain a positive mind state in times of stress.
The reasoning behind gun safety laws is understandable. Legislators are trying to find ways to reduce the number of shooters quickly and efficiently. However, the laws that were implemented in MSU, CSU, OUS, U of C and now UCA go about it the wrong way.
According to the Safe School Initiative Report, shooters obtained guns through friends or from their own houses; these shooters were finding ways to obtain guns while within the confines of the law. The problem cannot be solved by broadening the law and providing more opportunities for potential school shooters to come in contact with guns.
There is no cookie cutter solution to this problem. It’s a complex issue that needs to be solved at a much earlier stage.