July 17, 2019

Columbine 20-year anniversary sparks policy conversation

Since Columbine, there have been 238 incidents of gun violence on school campuses, according to data collected by the Washington Post. More than 226,000 students have been affected by this violence according to the same study.

Thirteen people were killed, not including the gunmen, by the violence that occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999. There were school shootings before it but Columbine was the first highly televised attack on a school.

Webster Groves Police Captain Greg Perks said the way police handle active shooter scenarios has completely changed since Columbine occurred. Prior to Columbine, when a police officer heard over the radio there was an on-campus shooting, they would arrive at the scene, create a perimeter, wait and call SWAT, Perks said.

Perks said the current standard procedure is to go in and stop the threat as soon as possible.

“We need to go in immediately and address the threat because the longer we waited, the more lives were impacted, more injuries were occurred, more deaths,” Perks said. “So [Columbine] changed everything.”

Perks said the Webster Groves Police Department works with all of the public and private schools in its municipality to devise the best plan in the event of an active, on-campus threat. All St. Louis City and County municipalities work together to find the best procedures to ensure the right course of action to address a mass casualty threat.

Dalton Edwards, a security guard and Webster University alumnus, said he believes Webster should take more safety precautions. More surveillance cameras with less blind spots and a more visible Public Safety team will deter students with negative intentions.

“I still feel like it’s not taken as seriously as it could or should be because you know, anything can happen still,” Edwards said.

Webster Groves police trains residents what to do in an active shooter situation with the “four E’s,” educate, evade, escape, engage. Webster University Public Safety follows the four A’s of an active shooter response: Accept that the emergency is occurring. Assess what you can do. Act by run, hide, fight. Alert law enforcement.

Political science major Sarah Hill said she believes there’s still room for safety on campus to improve.

“I was friends with a student who had trouble with safety, I don’t take that lightly. There’s always something you can improve, but I feel safe myself,” Hill said.

States across the country have enacted laws to control or protect gun rights. The red flag law enables law enforcement and other concerned parties, to remove the guns from individuals who pose a threat to the safety of themselves or others. Red flag laws have been passed in 15 states.

Other states are moving towards reform to ensure the protection of the second-amendment. Missouri moved away from restrictive gun reform and recently moved to allow college students with a gun carry permit to have a gun on-campus.

Many states have put new gun legislation recently but there are fewer federal gun control laws in place. Though many states have put new gun legislation in place little has been done at the federal level. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act was put in place in 2007. It provides incentives for states who provide information such as name, age and mental health standing to the federal database that is used to perform background checks when a gun is purchased from a federally licensed dealer.

The Trump administration enacted a ban on all use and sale of bump stocks on, which the Las Vegas concert shooter used, on  March 26, 2019.

Captain Perks stated it is difficult to pass gun reform legislation with so many emotions on both sides of the debate. He said he believes that we are moving in the right direction with the bump stock ban.

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