The Office of Emergency Management has held active-shooter training sessions for students following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 students and staff were killed. The shooting sparked a national debate around gun control.
Last Friday, more than 50 students gathered at the Bell Tower for the National School Walkout to protest gun violence. It was the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, when two students killed 13 people in 1999 at the Colorado high school.
The Columbine shooting and other highly publicized shootings were catalysts that changed many of the police tactics use in active shooter situations, said Kenneth McGuire, the lieutenant of Campus Safety Services.
“Columbine was a deal breaker,” McGuire said. “It was a watershed moment for law enforcement. The standard procedure was first patrol officers on location form a perimeter, and you would wait for SWAT or a tactical team, but that doesn’t work anymore. If there is someone inside hurting people, you just can’t wait. You have to go in.”
So far this year, there have been 17,443 incidents of gun violence that have killed 4,406 people, according to the independent nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.
At Temple, McGuire implemented an Active Assailant program in 2005.
In the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting when 32 people were killed, the assailant chained the doors of the building. Because of this, Temple Police added breaching equipment to break down doors in active-shooter situations.
And after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2012, Temple Police were equipped with tourniquets as apart of the Tactical Emergency Casualty Care program to prevent deaths in trauma situations.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has faced criticism for not entering Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and engaging the shooter immediately to minimize casualties. In light of this, Campus Safety Services is planning to train police officers to engage an active shooter alone.
“It’s really involved,” McGuire said. “When officers first come on board, they go through a four-day training class. Most departments only go through one or two. We take these things very seriously.”
The emergency preparedness program, TUready — implemented by Director of Emergency Management Sarah Powell — promotes the “run, hide, fight” tactic in an emergency situation. This encourages people to first run from the suspected shooter, second hide and barricade yourself in an area away from the shooter and finally attempt to fight and disable the shooter as a “last resort,” McGuire said.
“The bottom line is, you are not helpless in active shooter situations,” McGuire said. “Nobody is a victim. Victimization is only a state of mind. This is a safe campus. We plan and train on this all the time.”
On Friday, more than 2,300 walkouts were planned to protest gun violence, USA Today reported. The national walkout was organized on Friday by a Connecticut high school student in light of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Adam Leopold, a senior political science major who organized Temple’s walkout, said his goal was to facilitate an open discussion about gun violence where people feel comfortable to express their views on the issue, Leopold said.
Leopold said he is thankful for the walkout’s on-campus support.
“There were a lot of people who really believed what we were doing,” Leopold told The Temple News. “Toward the end, people started to peter out, but it didn’t matter. I would rather speak to 20 people who care about the issue than speak to 400 who just want to get out of class.”
Five high school students from Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia and Raised Woke, a Philadelphia-based youth activism organization, spoke to the crowd about gun violence, wearing shirts that read #PoliticizeMyDeath.
Julia Albro-Fisher, a middle school student from Massachusetts who organized a walkout at her school a few weeks ago, spoke at Temple about her experiences as a young student in America practicing lockdown drills in preparation for a potential shooter.
“I do not understand why it is so difficult for people to choose between guns and children,” Albro-Fisher said to the crowd. “Our government has taken the time to control so many things, when I can drive, vote, drink. You control me, but you do not protect me, and that makes me very anxious. Lockdown drills aren’t stopping school shootings.”
Some Temple students felt compelled to share their thoughts on gun violence to the crowd, like freshman psychology major Jessica Pingor.
“It’s really hard to see people talk about these issues in such a negative way when there are literally children dying,” Pingor said to the crowd. “Teachers are risking their lives when all they wanted to do was teach and help these children learn and grow and live in an America that is safe. How many more people have to die before people realize that guns are the problem?”