Stories about school shootings like last week’s murder-suicide at UCLA have become a relative constant in the news media with the U.S. averaging one school shooting per week since 2013. While opinions vary on what it's going to take to stop them from happening in the future, it's become pretty clear that we need to take some concrete steps toward violence prevention on campuses.
In light of the recent tragedy, we asked college students in California what they think could prevent gun violence from occurring at their schools. Some of their suggestions are plain common sense, and others may surprise you:
Employ students as security officers
Robert Lerma, a student at California State University, Stanislaus, suggested that employing students as campus security guards would help in the event of an emergency.
“If anything, a program can be started where students who want to do work-study can do patrol themselves,” Lerma said. “They wouldn't have guns or anything, but if trained right, they can act fast in a dangerous situation and help direct others to safety.”
Prepare for shootings like we do for natural disasters
Schools are the second likeliest target for mass shootings in the U.S., next to private homes, and because such shootings generally last less than five minutes, people are often forced to react immediately without the help of law enforcement, according to data collected by Fusion.
Karen Marin, a UCLA freshman who was on campus when the recent shooting occurred, was skeptical when asked about how to prevent gun violence on campuses.
“Simply banning weapons and guns on university campuses is not going to change much, seeing as it didn’t help today at UCLA,” said Marin on the day of the shooting. “We’re going to have to live with gun violence in our everyday lives.”
Nevertheless, Marin did say that being more prepared would go a long way toward making students like herself feel safer. When she received an emergency text message from the university at the time of the shooting stating that the campus was on lockdown, Marin said it didn’t include any information about what to do. Universities could do better, she said, by drilling students and faculty and posting emergency procedures more widely in public areas, similar to the way schools prepare for earthquakes and fires.
Don't expect students to seek out mental health services on their own
Maya Olais, a recent Fresno State University graduate, said mental health care is a key to preventing campus violence.
“Colleges need to place more focus on the mental health of students,” Olais said, “because with how much pressure they are under, they most likely won't take the time to take care of themselves. I know this because I have never taken the steps to help myself at my most low points in college.”
Most colleges have mental health awareness events on campus, said Olais, but a more direct approach — having counselors visit classrooms to speak about self-care and show students they are supported—would reach more students who need to hear the message.
“The stress that college puts on students is dangerous” and can lead to students harming themselves or others, said Olais. “We need to put mental health at the forefront before we take extreme measures that make campuses like airport security.”
Don’t fight fire with fire
Alexandra Johnston, a recent graduate of UC Merced, believes there should be stricter gun laws and wants to see a greater emphasis placed on education for those who do purchase guns, as well as more thorough background checks for buyers.
“The Second Amendment guarantees everyone the right to have a gun, [but] the recent epidemic of gun violence has shown that guns have become a huge problem,” Johnston said. “To combat this, a bipartisan effort needs to be made by congress to ensure the safety of all.”
“It’s too easy for the wrong people to use a gun to hurt other people,” Johnston added. “Some may say that the solution to the increase in gun violence is for everyone to have a gun—but if this was a fire, we wouldn’t use more fire to put it out, right?”
Add violence prevention to the curriculum
Some schools have taken a swing at combating the issue through public discourse. For instance, in response to the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, Brown University’s President hosted a series of on-campus forums that sparked conversations around the causes and prevention of campus shootings.
Anna Nelson, a student at UC Santa Cruz, believes that discussions on campus are necessary to eradicate gun violence.
“Required workshops could be held at the beginning of every quarter or semester on how to support each other and prevent violence within communities, whether it’s a work setting or a small friend group,” Nelson said. “If the root [causes] of what’s hurting people are discussed, the violence-pattern can be disrupted.”
This content was made possible by a grant from The California Endowment and produced independently by Fusion’s Rise Up: Be Heard Journalism Fellowship.
Maria Marcelina Crystal Vega, from the Central Valley town of Los Banos, is a queer Xicanx and soon-to-be UC Davis graduate majoring in psychology and anthropology with a minor in religious studies. At Davis, they have written for the school newspaper, the Aggie, and have been very involved with their college radio station as a volunteer, DJ, and news reporter. They are a passionate advocate for education and community empowerment. They currently work as a recreation leader for an after school program and also as a peer educator for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. They are interested in reporting on social justice topics involving underrepresented groups such as the LGBT+ community, reproductive justice and youth.