Alexis T. Rhoden
University of Mississippi senior Melissa Johnson said she felt sorrow for the Florida families who lost loved ones during this week’s shooting.
“It was devastating, sad, and at first I wondered how the children felt,” she said. “I first saw it from a student’s Snapchat that was in the class, and you could see the dead bodies on the floor. My heart was broken because those kids will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.”
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. Johnson believes more metal detectors might enhance school security, but she believes many warning signs were ignored.
“When he was expelled, they probably knew he needed help, and then they show pictures on his social media of him holding guns,” she said. “The world would be more peaceful without all these weapons, but until then, this will keep happening. I just hope my family stays safe.”
Johnson said the latest tragedy has made her pay closer attention to her surroundings. She said she now looks for corners to jump into in every class in case something similar happens on campus.
Oxford resident Rachel Campbell, 19, said she felt anger and worry after hearing about the latest school shooting. She’s also discouraged that mass shootings have become so common. “I mean, there’s been 18 shootings in this calendar year,” she said.
Campbell said she doesn’t believe that someone who was expelled for fighting and threatening their classmates, should have been able to obtain a gun. “The fact a mentally ill person can get an AR-15 on their hands,” she said. “An AR-15 is a weapon for war.”
She is also uneasy about House Bill 1083, which could allow gun permit owners to bring weapons to sporting events. During an ethics class discussion about it, she said she was amazed that some people were not angered by the thought of fans bringing guns into the Pavilion.
“I have faith the University Police Department could take down a gunman on campus,” she said, “but there are so many students here that the number of wounded would far exceed any high school. Especially if [the shooter] was a student, they would know the traffic areas and peak times. It’s concerning.”
Campbell said allowing people to bring guns to games has not been wisely considered. “The thought of untrained people with guns shooting at someone, with citizens running amok,” she said. “We have an Army and Navy and National Guard. There’s no need for every citizen to have guns. That’s not a necessity anymore.”
Campbell believes gun control measures should be taken. “At this point, the policy-makers, I wish they would put aside who donates to them, because they’re never going to do anything about gun control because they get so much money from the National Rifle Association … But they’re between a rock and a hard place, you know? They could not run to be re-elected without donations.”
According to Politifact.com, the NRA has spent $45.9 million on federal lobbying since 1998.
Campbell believes it should be more difficult for people to purchase guns. “It definitely needs to be harder for the mentally ill to acquire guns,” she said. “It needs to be harder to buy semi- and fully automatic weapons on the internet. It’s a responsibility for gun sellers. They know who they are selling the guns to and what ideologies [their customers] have, and then they end up sending their thoughts and condolences.”
Annalee Jones, a UM junior secondary education major, said she is shaken every time she hears about a mass shooting. “I’m going to be in secondary education,” she said. Like that’s my future, and it just worries me a bit.”
Jones said mass shootings seem to be a revolving door. “You don’t know what to do with it until it just passes,” she said. She said it seems like many people believe the solution is gun control, but nothing ever changes, and the topic fades away until another shooting occurs.
Jones said she read several news articles to learn more about the incident. While looking for general information like the shooter’s name and age, she stumbled on different propositions for what should be done to improve school safety. One article suggested that teachers have firearms in the classroom.
“It said that teachers should be equipped to carry a gun in the classroom, which I do not agree with whatsoever,” she said. Jones said a safety officer at every school might help. “Teachers are made to teach,” she said. “They are made to protect their students, not to shoot off an attacker…”
Another proposition was creating courses for secondary education majors that directly pertain to emergency responding. “I think it should be a part of the curriculum for there to be courses on classroom safety and emergency action plans,” she said.
Jones said the incident will not detour her from teaching or education. “But it’s making me more aware,” she said. “It definitely made me think about when I start teaching in a school, but it’s not going to scare me away from becoming an educator.”
Andrew Beyke, an Ole Miss’s athletic trainer, believes mass shootings are indicative of a societal problem.
“You can regulate the law as much as you want, but people will still get a hold of whatever they want,” he said. “Mental health of the individuals that are performing these actions are the problem. We need to boost our attention towards societal and mental health problems.
Beyke believes parents are part of the problem. “You have to go back and look how kids are being raised; to not respect themselves, their peers, their teachers and authorities,” he said. “With lack of respect, people do not fall in line and do not do the things which they are being asked to do.
“Next thing you know is that some kids are getting bullied, and they do not receive necessary help, so they go and find a mean way to make themselves feel better.”
Ole Miss student Andre Baskin said he’s not sure what the answer is.
“The weapon itself doesn’t shoot; it’s the person who uses the tool,” he said, “so I think it’s a hard subject. Even if guns were illegal, there’s still a black market for them.”
Baskin said privacy and safety work hand-in-hand. “Do you want your privacy violated for safety, or do you want your privacy?” he said. “I know I wouldn’t want people all in my business, but at the same time, I feel like if I were at risk of bringing harm to someone else, I’d like people to know that.”
Baskin said violence doesn’t solve violence. “I know people who want to feel protected with guns, but I feel like we shouldn’t have guns in the first place,” he said. “If we didn’t have guns, there wouldn’t be this type of violence, but it’s kinda sketchy. If only the military had guns, the people might not feel safe.
“If the government wanted to take over or control its citizens, then we should be able to have access to weapons like that, but to protect ourselves, it’s a different question. Prayers to the people who lost their lives, prayers to the school, but it just happens. It’s sad to say, but anything could happen.”
Jorja Carter, a UM junior history an art education major at the University of Mississippi, believes school leaders should do more to identify and provide mental health services for students with known behavioral issues.
“School counselors should have had some type of protocol to deal with students who raise red flags when dealing with mental health,” she said. “This could have all been prevented.”
Oxford resident Tyler Nelson, who has family in Florida, said he began praying after hearing about the shooting.
Nelson believes schools should have more funding for security. “Instead of saving money for the higher class, we should focus on funding our schools first,” he said.
Some have proposed funding security guards on school campuses and adding extra precautions, such as metal detectors and monitored activity. Nelson believes this is a good place to start.
Looking at the millions of Americans that could just spare a couple dollars, we would be able to provide secure and safe environments for our schools,” he said.
UM sophomore student Hannah Perrigin said she wasn’t shocked by news of the latest school shooting.
“This type of thing is becoming more and more common every day, and it is truly sad,” she said. “There should be an increase of security on school grounds, as well as having classes that implement mental wellness. This needs to be under control. We can decrease the worry by becoming aware of warning signals in individuals.”