University of Mississippi students and Oxford residents are trying to make sense of the latest school shooting that claimed 17 lives at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day.
Nikolas Cruz, a former student who had been expelled from the school earlier, brought an AR-15 rifle to the campus and opened fire. He was arrested later that day.
The incident was chronicled on social media. Documentation of the massacre went viral, and students around the country have been shaken by the tragedy. Some wonder if it could happen at their school.
University of Mississippi freshmen Livie Ruhl, a political science major, believes school shootings could happen anywhere, even on the Ole Miss campus. “We could be in a classroom, and someone could come in fully armed and just start shooting everyone,” she said. “It’s the worst thing imaginable. You don’t get dressed, go to school and expect to see your friends get shot at.”
Ruhl believes gun control is needed. “The reason that lawmakers in this country are not taking action on gun control is because they are being paid big money from the NRA, and they don’t want to make laws that are controlling the guns in this country. If there was gun control, these things wouldn’t happen.”
Ruhl believes many students share the same sentiments. “We’re all scared, and the students that witnessed the shooting didn’t know the danger that they would experience until it happened to them,” she said. “I think this could definitely happen here, especially in our state’s current political climate. The House Bill (1083) that is subject to current debate about allowing firearms on campus – if that gets passed, then the chances of a school shooting would be even higher in my opinion.”
The Mississippi House of Representatives has passed House Bill 1083, the enhanced carry permit legislation that could strengthen permit-holding citizens’ ability to carry guns in places, such as college campuses.
Cruz had purchased an AR-15 legally. Many believe these weapons shouldn’t be in the hands of those with a problematic past, such as Cruz. Others believe weapons shouldn’t be sold to the public.
David Wilkinson, founder and owner of the Oxford business Emergency Plumber, said he formerly owned a few AR semi-automatic firearms, but recently sold them because of his personal views about their danger and lack of necessity.
“Even hunters do not need such weapons,” he said. “One to three shots are plenty for hunting. The only reason we could ever need a multiple-shot weapon is if there was an invasion on the continent.”
Wilkinson, even with his use of firearms for hunting and protection, said he believes organizations should more closely examine who is applying for a license.
“Gun purchasers need to be extremely scrutinized,” Wilkinson said. “I went through about 18 months of clearance and investigations to be able to do so. I think our gun legislation is strong, but could always be stronger.”
Wilkinson expressed anxieties about how the nation has become desensitized to mass shootings. He said he believes the country is losing its moral center.
“We have to get back to the right and respect for life,” said Wilkinson. “That is what is being lost. The only way to deal with something this big is to find the root of the problem and deal with it there. Our nation needs to come back to Christ.”
Oxford resident Nigel Dent will admit that he is desensitized. He said he was unaffected and not surprised by news of the latest school shooting. “It was the ‘here we go again’ type of situation,” he said.
He said he has noticed a perpetual cycle: “The shooting happens, people send out thoughts and prayers, days later they forget, no legislation gets passed, and *bam* – it happens again,” he said.
Dent believes Americans have become desensitized to mass shootings. They have become part of our meme culture. “As a result, mass shootings are not looked at as seriously,” he said. Light is made of a bad situation, and victims are disrespected.
This science of desensitization can also be applied to society’s response to mental health. Dent believes there should be more investment in mental health resources. “The kid in Florida, for instance, gave off signs that he was troubled,” Dent said. “More attention should have been paid to that.”
Dent says there should be high school counselors that specialize in social-emotional competencies. “Counselors are only used for scheduling assistance and college applications, and that’s a problem,” he said.
Society, he claims, damages people to the point of mental instability. “We don’t take responsibility for it, and we treat them as criminals,” he said. “We need to give them proper care and treatment.”
Poor parenting can breed mental instability, Dent said. “Things and events and laws feed into people’s actions and psyches,” he said.
He said stricter gun laws are a solution. Gun control measures “would’ve made it impossible for people like (Cruz) to have a gun in the first place.”
Dent believes the process of obtaining a gun in America is too easy and demands reform. He says there is no reason a troubled kid with a history of poor mental health should have been able to buy a semi-automatic AR-15. “They should just ban military-grade weapons altogether,” he said.
He understands that “the obsession of guns comes from Americans romanticizing the military.” However, private citizens should not be allowed to use guns of that caliber, he said.