BREAKING NEWS: NEW LAW PASSED ALLOWING POSSESSION OF GUNS ON COLLEGE GROUNDS! Imagine this becoming the new headline in a few years time. The horror! Unlike school systems with grades K-12, there are no public government databases that track the commonality of shootings on college grounds. The responsibility has been left solely to researchers, journalists, and nonprofit organizations. One can only imagine the gun threat or shooter stories that go untold or even withheld. Without a sense of obligation to hone into the likelihood of these types of circumstances, the long-lived advocacy for the alleviation of gun-violence in the U.S loses its credibility,  and students across the U.S will remain endangered. 

Why are college campuses more at risk of gun violence now?

Within the past decade, the gun lobbyists have introduced legislation that enforces colleges and universities to permit the possession of guns. More specifically, in 2008 the National Rifle Association (NRA) proposed a model bill that forces colleges to allow guns on campus. This was soon adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the push has been accelerated since then. The mere consideration of such legislation intensifies the prioritization of protecting college campuses and civilians from the possibility of gun misuse. The gun lobby sees that guns on campus is a Second Amendment right, understandably so, but the Supreme Court of the United States disagrees. Currently our Second Amendment recognizes the right to bear arms, however the wording “equal to that of a militia” is what provides leeway for the possession of military-based weaponry. If the Supreme Court sees to edit the Second Amendment, it could change the means of possessing firearms and establish a stricter policy.

Fortunately, New Jersey has long been considered a pioneer in gun violence prevention, having perhaps one of the most comprehensive and recently strengthened gun carry permitting systems. According to New Jersey’s Department of Education, through the Department’s Office of School Preparedness & Emergency Planning (OSPEP) the unit requires that all districts and schools prioritize the establishment and maintenance of a school safety and maintenance plan that addresses all hazards and phases of crises. The crisis management planning includes mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Schools are then required to hold a minimum of two of each of the following drills: active shooter, evacuation (non-fire), bomb threat, and lockdown. Yet, the same cannot be said for our college campuses, there are no active shooter or intruder drills. In comparison to Pennsylvania, however, their gun policies are much more laxed. Civilians can walk the streets with firearms in possession, so it’s inevitable that their schools are more at risk of gun violence. 

The Bigger Picture

If college campuses being equipped with the necessary tools and safety protocols for active shooters or general protection against gun violence continues not to be prioritized, this will be a generational issue not just simply within the state of New Jersey, but across the country. It has already been acknowledged that school shootings in particular have become concerningly frequent in our country. Although some of our younger education systems are being prepped for the possibility of a school shooting, this ranges state-wide and our higher education facilities are practically being left to fend for themselves. College campuses fail to realize that they are subjecting themselves and our country to increasing victims of more mass shootings, homicides, and suicides. America has a problem, and because of this we need these safety protocols and issues alleviated at schools to protect our students.

What’s next?/What can you do to help?

College Campuses could use your voice in advocating for gun control within the U.S, and also for the students on college campuses who are not fully trained and protected from gun violence. An email to the heads of your city or state school district boards or the legislature chairs for public safety and education is a great way to start. These positions can all be found on the New Jersey School Board Association website, along with personal contact information. Even starting a petition to gain the involvement of students, parents, professors, and staff is a tangible means of demanding change. Be a part of the change, our school systems need you.

About the Author: Shazaiyah Webster is currently a PR and Social Media intern at the Lesniak Institute. She is a student at Kean University, expecting a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Social Media Communications.