by Quinn Welsch
On one of the last days of winter quarter at Whatcom Community College, a student brought a gun into a classroom.
No one was shot, and very few people even knew about it, but it did happen. Thankfully, the gun that was brought to campus wasn’t real. It was only an air-soft rifle that resembled a carbine.
The person carrying the air-soft rifle was dressed in a black load-bearing vest (similar to the one worn by the Virginia Tech gunman) and black gloves. He explained that he was using it as a stage prop for a skit that he and members of a group were going to act out in front of my class. Before they began their skit, he assured the classroom that the air-soft rifle was not loaded and that it did not have a firing mechanism inside of it.
His role in the skit was that of a sniper in combat, and he took up a firing position with the barrel of the air-soft rifle facing toward the class. Despite his reassurance that it would not fire the class went silent, as those within his line of sight became targets.
The skit ended, and no one was hurt.
A million questions were going through my mind during and after this whole scene unfolded. How did this student bring a gun on campus? Why didn’t anyone say anything to him? What is he thinking? What if the muzzle of the rifle is only painted orange to look like an air-soft rifle? Where do I go? What should I do?
Maybe I was being a little paranoid, but everyone in the class seemed to be thinking the same thing.
After class, the teacher spoke with the student outside of the class (which I assume was a stern warning NOT to bring something like that on campus again), and life resumed to normal. Even though I trust that the rifle was an air-soft gun, I feel there are a lot of students on campus who could be fooled. For his own sake, if a police officer had driven past the campus while he was carrying the rifle, he may have suffered more extreme consequences.
On April 2 in Oakland, Claif., a man was arrested for killing seven people and wounding three others in a shooting spree at a small Christian college, Oiko’s University. I was pretty young when the shootings at Columbine High School took place, but since then, similar events have shown how easily a place for education can be turned into a nightmare. I think Bellingham is a great place, and probably one of the least likely places for such a tragedy, but the students at Virginia Tech may have thought the same thing.
I like to think of myself as the guy who would rescue the damsel in distress and take out the gunman, but the reality is probably far from that. When someone makes an attempt at your life, there is a surge of adrenaline and mortality becomes a very real thing, often leaving people in a state of paralysis.
Posted throughout the campus is an emergency response list that explains what to do in an emergency, be it natural or man-made. However, I have witnessed first hand how easy it is to bring something as large as a rifle on campus, and then into a classroom. Where was campus security when this happened? Campus security doesn’t exist during normal business hours.
Some argue that students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus to defend themselves in emergency situations. Others feel gun control should be more strict. Either option has its pros and its cons, and it’s not my job to determine which one is best. But it seems odd that a person can walk on campus with what looks like a real weapon, and walk away with little more than a warning.
Whatcom doesn’t need campus-wide metal detectors or security patrols. Instead, students should be more conscious of what they bring on campus and how those decisions affect them and their fellow classmates. In addition, students and faculty should take it upon themselves to spot possible emergencies and know how to properly respond. A campus’s security should not be determined by its muscle but by the nature of student behavior.