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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Gun control debate in wake of Parkland, Fla., shooting

GENESIA TING / AGGIE

Importance of paying attention, how to stay safe on campus

On Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 17 were killed in what was pronounced the second worst school shooting in U.S. history. The New York Times reports that over 400 individuals have been killed in over 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012.

In the wake of the shooting, a national conversation and movement has ignited, known as the “we call BS” movement led by the students from Douglas High School. This is proving to be a pivotal point in the gun control discussion because unlike previous debates following mass shootings that have fizzled out, this one has stayed strong.

Regardless of one’s stance on gun ownership and control legislation, there are tactics used by all parties to advance their agendas.

“Both parties use framing strategies,” said Sam Collitt, a political science graduate student. “Mental health is a frame used by Republican politicians, gun advocates or owners that is used to focus attention on that rather than gun control, in the sense that who can own or purchase. By shifting the debate to mental health it limits the amount of attention that gun control issues get.”

Collitt also noted that this is true in reverse for liberal views, which tend to lean toward stricter gun laws.

“Given the news cycle speed, if you’re able to divert attention from gun control, for as long as the public is paying attention to it you create less demand for gun control legislation, the status quo is easier to maintain,” Collitt said.

“It makes it easier to preserve status quo in Florida in talking about mental health,” Collitt said. “Whereas in California, it is easier to preserve the status quo in talking about gun control because it is more restrictive. It is much harder to change status quo than it is to preserve it.”

NBC reported that on Mar. 7, Florida’s House of Representatives passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which raises the age to purchase a firearm to 21, puts a three-day waiting period on obtaining a gun, prohibits bump stocks and implements mental health programs in schools to impede gun use by mentally unstable individuals.

Following Florida, The New York Times reported that California will expanding its gun control policy already in place, which prohibits the purchase of a handgun under the age of 21, and is widening to include longer guns.

California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. It is illegal to purchase or possess military grade assault weapons; the state bans firearms with “detachable high-capacity ammunition magazines” and magazines are limited to 10 rounds. There is also a “gun violence restraining order” which allows police or family to temporarily remove firearms from a potentially unstable individual.

In an interview in the Los Angeles Daily News,  Garen Wintemute, the director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, said, “a gun violence restraining order could have made the difference [in Florida].” Wintemute was unavailable for an interview with The Aggie at this time.

These proposed gun control legislations directly impact the safety of U.S. citizens, especially for students on school campuses.

“Anytime a major incident like this happens, police and law enforcement always want to try and make sure we’re prepared and we’re doing the best we can,” said UC Davis police officer Ray Holguin.

The UC Davis campus is unique in that it has its own police department right on campus offering services such as 24/7 campus patrol, Aggie Safe Ride and WarnMe.

“WarnMe is our mass notification system, anybody who has a UC Davis email, faculty, staff or students, can sign up for it and we highly encourage it,” Holguin said. “This will send out a mass notification whether it be an active incident where a gun is involved, or just a chemical spill.”

In addition to this, the UC Davis Police Department is committed to proactive efforts in ensuring campus safety.

“One thing we really push, we have a simple saying here at the university, ‘if you see something say something,’” Holguin siad. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a crime or not, if something to you doesn’t look right or feel right, always give us a call so we can come and check it out and assess the situation. We highly recommend this, we want people to feel safe to call us no matter what.”

The UC Davis Police Department also conducts an Active Shooter Survival Workshop to educate faculty, students and staff on how to stay safe in the event of a firearm-related emergency.

“We really want to emphasize the mindset that if something like this does happen on campus what can we do, what should we do,” Holguin said. “We just had one on Mar. 1, right after the incident, and what we teach in that is homeland security has what they call ‘run hide or fight’ and that’s what we focus on.”

These hour-and-a-half classes are held on campus six times yearly and aim to prepare the UC Davis community in the event of an active incident.

“Now with more and more incidents happening, more and more faculty, staff and students are saying ‘we need this training,’” Holguin said. “We have seen an increase in demand for the training.”

In the wake of the Florida shooting, many campuses are initiating new protocols, but UC Davis is ahead of the game with its current procedures that have been in place and practice for years.

“We are reinforcing protocols already set in place. However, our management is always looking to work with the EOC, which is the emergency service center here on campus,” Holguin said. “We’re always working together and collaborating and making sure the information we are giving out is still the best and most up to date.”

In addition to campus safety resources, students have many options for getting involved and staying informed on this issue of gun violence.

“There are quite a lot of ways to get involved,” said Eric Medina, a third-year public service major and member of Davis College Democrats, J Street and Students for Justice in Palestine. “There is the Davis Political Review, they write on this issue without taking a stance. Then there are Davis College Democrats and Davis College Republicans who do [take stances on issues].”

 

Written by: Grace Simmons — features@theaggie.org

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