The TU alerts and headlines reporting shootings off-campus have become all too familiar since I enrolled at Temple, but when I heard that a student shot back in retaliation, I was shocked and even more so, disturbed. The last thing we need is violence on top of violence, and carrying weapons is not the solution for a safer atmosphere.
On Sept. 5 around 2 a.m., a 15-year-old juvenile shot 21-year-old sophomore Robert Eells. The youth attempted to flee, but Eells, who was armed, shot the juvenile in the back, landing both parties in the hospital. Leading up to the shootings, the youth and one other teenager had attempted to rob Eells, who did not comply with their demands.
Eells, a student from Chalfont, Pa. holds a license to carry. While Temple’s policy restricts any student, even those with a license, from carrying firearms on campus, under Pennsylvania law, those 21 and over can qualify for a concealed carry permit.
This incident led me to wonder how many more students make the decision to carry weapons and not just guns. What’s really going to stop someone from bringing their weapon on campus? After all, aren’t these students carrying in order to feel protected when walking from classes or activities to their off-campus residencies? That doesn’t make me feel protected.
Dr. Jennifer Wood, associate professor in the department of criminal justice, said that guns only add to the problem and that the answer to safety may lie in Temple’s environmental approach.
“[Carrying guns] is obviously not a solution at all,” Wood said. “If anything it contributes to a climate of fear.”
Wood applauded Temple’s efforts in creating a safe environment on Main Campus. Improving lighting, increasing security and promoting awareness on how to navigate safely through campus, Wood said, are some of their successes.
Now, Wood said, that type of innovative thinking should be extended off-campus.
Wood’s suggestions are precisely what we need. Students may argue that weapons are the best self defense measure, but the most basic safety tips we were all taught are being ignored, and they’re a lot easier and less stressful, than carrying a gun.
Students should not be wandering alone at night. As obvious as that sounds, the majority of us do it and many do it while intoxicated. Setting up security systems and carrying pepper spray are two other preventive measures. But on top of the obvious safety guidelines, students who live off-campus should be forming good relationships with their neighbors–the people who have been calling North Philadelphia their home for quite some time.
My neighbors are outside of their home the majority of the day and night. They know me and my roommates by name because we make an effort to talk to them. I see too many students walk by their neighbors with their heads down, ignoring hellos and rushing to class. They’re missing out on getting to know the people who can ultimately protect them.
Wood said “socially vibrant” communities where people feel connected to one another depend on each other and come together during times of crisis, which can help build a safer environment.
“Advocating carrying guns,” Wood said, “[will] send the message that we can’t rely on each other, that we can’t think in different ways about how to create communities that have a strong social vibe, communities that are safe, communities where people can feel that they can sit on their porch and walk the streets.”
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe improving our relationships with community members won’t solve anything. But I would rather try all my alternatives and put a little faith in my neighborhood before I resort to carrying a lethal weapon. Knowing I possessed the ability to hurt or even kill another individual wouldn’t make me feel any safer.
Cary Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.