Gun control issue in local, national spotlight

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On Jan. 16, President Barack Obama signed several gun control proposals as part of his current efforts to address the issue of gun violence. In those proposals Obama called for required criminal background checks for all gun sales, a ban on assault weapons, a 10-round limit on magazines and a ban on armor-piercing bullets.

Tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the two Topeka police officers who were fatally shot three days later, the shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and countless others have shoved the issue of gun violence into the national spotlight.

In the state of Kansas, a traditionally red state that votes conservative and typically favors gun rights, conversations amongst government officials and law enforcement regarding plans to prevent and possibly react to such a massacre are ongoing.

One K-State student who can personally relate to gun violence is Allie Young, freshman in open option.

Young was one of the first people shot in Aurora on July 20, 2012, when alleged gunman James Holmes stormed a packed theater and opened fire. She spent significant time in the hospital because of her injuries, but survived thanks to the help of Stephanie Davies, one of her friends, who put pressure on her wounds while she waited for the shootings to end and the paramedics to arrive.

Young believes that gun control laws may be fruitless efforts to curb gun violence.

“I don’t think gun laws would help,” Young said. “Maybe they would, but maybe they wouldn’t. I got my concealed license a month after everything happened to me. I’m very strongly convinced that people kill people, not guns.”

While the opinions of gun control around the K-State community run the spectrum, the one consensus is that whatever is done about this issue, it must all be done to help prevent a tragedy such as Sandy Hook from happening here at K-State.

Many opinions differ on the issue of assault weapons having a negative impact on our society. Jacob Anderson, freshman in secondary education, is a K-State student whose family was affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. Anderson’s aunt is the principal at New Fairfield High School, in New Fairfield, Conn., which is in the same school district as Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I believe that guns should be used for protection, but there should be a more extensive process in order to get a license to carry,” Anderson said. “I also believe assault weapons and assault rifles serve no purpose or benefit to society.”

Representative Sydney Carlin is a democrat who represents the 66th District in Kansas, which encompasses part of Manhattan, including K-State. She said that while she favors a citizen’s right to own a gun, changes must be made in the law to prevent the tragedies that have become far too common.

“The types of guns available are different,” Carlin said. “The amount of gun violence has increased dramatically, and we have to really look at safety for citizens for our country.”

One of Carlin’s beliefs that contradicts many of her peers in the state legislature is her disagreement with the right to carry a concealed weapon.

“I oppose concealed carry, period,” Carlin said. “And I also opposed it when they tried to allow concealed carry on campus. The university opposes that, and I certainly understand that. I don’t approve of carrying a gun that you can’t see.”

Currently, both state law and campus policy state that it is illegal to carry a gun on campus, either concealed or open carry.

“In Kansas, law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry. But within that law, there are limited places where they cannot carry,” said Capt. Don Stubbings of the K-State Police Department. “One of the examples is an institute of higher learning — within the buildings. This is an area that concealed carry is not permitted. It’s not only the law, but it’s a policy violation for the university as well. The university has a no guns or weapons policy.”

There is a new chapter of a nationwide group on campus called Students for Concealed Carry that believes law-abiding students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Robert Auten, the adviser to the K-State chapter, said that many believe their organization wants to have masses of gun-toting students walking around campus.

“One myth is that we want to arm all college students, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Auten said.

Currently, the university has a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), which is made up of various entities on campus, including the K-State Police and Student Life departments.

The goal of the CIRT is to actively prevent a violent situation from happening on campus by reaching out to any students who are showing suspicious or disturbing behavior.

“If there is an incident, say an outburst in class or an angry student, we try to intervene before it gets to that level,” Stubbings said. “It seems to work well.”

Heather Reed, the director of Student Life on campus and the chair of CIRT, says there about 20-25 incidents per year that require CIRT.

“The types of student situations that require the CIRT are serious student situations and campus threats,” Reed said. “That’s the definition of what a critical incident is. It’s my job to gather information really quickly about what is going on, and if it reaches that seriously disruptive situation, then I will call a CIRT.”

The CIRT was formed after the Virginia Tech massacre.

“After Virginia Tech a crisis management team met, and then we actually started CIRT in 2008,” Reed said.

While this program is in place to prevent student violence, an active shooter could still come onto campus and open fire. Currently, both the campus police and the Riley County Police Department train yearly for situations involving active shooters in order to help prepare their officers to deal with such a crisis.

“In terms of active violence or active shooter, we do training each year,” Stubbings said. “We collaborate with the Riley County Police Department and do training as well, and we’ve been doing it since Columbine. The active shooter — we hear about Virginia Tech and things of that nature. But the truth is, we started changing the way we approach an active shooter back to Columbine.”

According to Stubbings, police can usually arrive to an accident involving an active shooter in two minutes.

In addition to yearly training, the RCPD encourages citizens to be active themselves in preventing violence and responding appropriately when it occurs.

“We’ve always taken a stance where if you see something suspicious, go ahead and give us a call,” said Matt Droge, the public information officer for RCPD. “We’d rather go out and investigate. If you see something, say something.”

The RCPD has also posted a video, originally produced by law enforcement in Houston, Texas, on its Pinterest account that discusses what citizens should do if an active shooter scenario does occur. The video is graphic in nature, but it encourages people to run, hide or fight the shooter, in that order.

The current gun-violence trend is nationwide. Government entities from the White House down to local government are trying to find ways to combat this issue. Many legislatures believe that strengthening gun laws is the answer, while others say that doing so will simply exacerbate the problem. Whatever the solution is, law enforcement officers will continue to do their best to actively prevent and respond appropriately to incidents of gun violence.

“It’s absolutely essential that we are able to train people in a position of authority or control to be able to respond appropriately,” Carlin said. “It’s very different from when I was a little girl. We didn’t have those things. I don’t know why it’s changing, but I wish I did. I am a strong personal rights person, but you lose those personal rights when you’re going across the lines and infringing on another person’s rights.”

Carlin added, “We should not have the ability to use our freedom to hurt other people.”

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