One student’s take on arming campus security officials

On Feb. 7, I overheard a student say, “they’re testing the emergency system on campus.” She just as quickly deleted the message. I checked my phone. No text message for me.

I asked other friends if they had heard about the emergency system test. Some said yes, but others said no. I then began to wonder why I hadn’t received a text message. How many others didn’t receive this text? Do students know what to do in an emergency? What if the test had been an active shooter situation where seconds equal lives?

I finally was notified, when I checked my email after class and read the email that stated,“this is only a test.” Statistically, the chance of a mass shooting on any college is minimal. However, the consequences of not being fully prepared can be catastrophic. Shootings are among the deadliest emergencies a school may face.

As part of our security profile, Maryville College does not allow firearms on campus; however, gun-free zones only stop those who respect the law. As it currently stands, even the Maryville College security guards are unarmed; thus, we have no such deterrent on campus. In the case of an armed threat, we are completely vulnerable until the Maryville Police arrive on campus.

The Maryville Police does have an amazingly good response time of between 90 seconds to five minutes; however, a lot can happen in just 90 seconds. There is often zero warning before the shooting occurs. The sound of the first shot is the first sign of trouble. The gun-free policy that disarms our security force leaves us defenseless and unprotected.

Armed guards protect our banks, courtrooms and museums. Why wouldn’t schools have the same level of protection?

In an interview, President Bogart said it’s simple risk assessment.

“Our administration determined that the risk of allowing guns on campus by law outweighed the benefits,” Bogart said.

I wholeheartedly agree. Faculty, staff, and especially students, should not be allowed to have firearms on campus. Let the teachers and the students focus on why they are here–teaching and learning. But why would we disarm the professionals who are here to protect us?  

This should be reconsidered. Given the grave consequences of a bad decision, the discussion should be open to public debate and include the experiences of other states and the advice of current experts.  

I believe there are four changes that would reduce risk on the Maryville College campus in an active shooter situation.

  1. Regularly scheduled active shooter training should be provided to everyone on campus, including commuters.
  2. Notification should be out loud, similar to a tornado warning, so that everyone is notified immediately. Not everyone has a phone with them at all times.
  3. Everyone enrolled and employed at Maryville College should automatically be included in something similar to the Amber Alert system. The Amber Alert system sends messages to cell phone owners without the owner having to provide his or her information to the system.
  4. Our security force should be armed with concealed weapons.

Officers wearing concealed weapons would in no way change their day to day activities. Having a firearm available gives them a more effective option for self-defense and defense of others in case of an armed threat – nothing more.  

I am not suggesting an end to our relationship with the Maryville Police. I am suggesting a closer relationship. New training and rules of engagement for our officers must be designed to improve our security plans. Our security team fills the response gap. Every second that our officers distract a shooter might allow more would-be victims to escape and allow the Maryville Police to get in position to end the situation.

This subject is perhaps more important now than ever because of a recent change in state law. As of  July 1, hundreds of state properties, including campuses such as the University of Tennessee will no longer be gun free zones. That leaves fewer gun free zones in the Knoxville area. Statistically, our campus could be at an increased risk. We, as a community, need to discuss changing our security profile.

According to the Department of Homeland Security the average duration of an active shooter incident at a school is 12.5 minutes, and there has been an increase in campus shootings in recent years.  

For example, on Valentine’s Day, a gunman attacked a Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida. A former student carried a semi-automatic rifle into the school and started shooting.  According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, the attack lasted about three minutes. He killed 17 people. Campus security did not engage the shooter, and the gunman was gone before police arrived.

Although the chance of a mass shooting on any college including is minimal, the next generation is a society’s most valuable asset. Why wouldn’t we make them as safe as possible?


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