Gimme shelter in place

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

By Michael Blanche

Since 2013, there have been 170 school shootings, more than one a week, according to the non-partisan, non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety.

In the interests of precaution and awareness, DCCC Safety and Security held a sophisticated training exercise over a 12- hour period on Feb. 20, at the Downingtown campus.

“We take the safety of our students, staff and visitors very seriously and want to be as prepared as possible in the event of a true emergency,” President Dr. Jerry Parker said in a recent press release.

Security personnel coordinated with SWAT, police and local emergency responders to create scenarios that included hostage and active shooter drills.“An Incident Command System is in place to ensure the College is prepared as possible in the event of an actual emergency on any of its Delaware and Chester County campuses,” the press release states. “Saturday’s exercise provided the opportunity to put that system to the test.”

Overseeing the training was director of Safety and Security Raymond Viscusi. Viscusi  has 21 years’ experience as a police officer in Philadelphia, and has held his current position for 10 years.

Viscusi touted the success of the exercise and added, “I am always willing to answer any questions about safety on the campuses.”

According to the press release, “Volunteers played the roles of college students and professors during the exercise, which included several simulated casualties and wounded victims.”

“Every classroom has a large card that is taped on the wall and the professor can pull it off and take it during an emergency,” Viscusi said. “All responders also have schematics and know the layout of the campuses very well; we engage in constant training and meetings.”

Even though college security forces are striving to ensure the safety of students and faculty, some people do not feel fully protected unless carrying a weapon. A recent Gallup poll reported 56 percent of people said they would feel safer if more Americans were able to carry concealed guns.

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is a non-profit organization that believes students should be afforded the right to protect themselves on campus. They engage legislators at the state level and try to dispel misconceptions about people who carry a concealed weapon on campus.

“I think a lot of [mass school shootings] have to do with a lack of mental health care,” said Savannah Lindquist, the chapter president of SCCC at Temple University. “In addition, the publicized nature of college campuses being gun-free zones certainly does not help.”

Yet experts say colleges and universities have a murder rate that is 200 times less than the national average. Furthermore, typically less than 25 people a year are murdered on campuses, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

In fact, a report issued by DCCC in 2014 calculated crimes on campus, revealing 38 counts of theft and 65 counts of disorderly conduct over a three-year period, which greatly outnumbered other crimes.

Keep Guns off Campus is one of many non-profit organizations which provide evidence that handguns on school grounds cause more death, increase suicides and other crimes.

Temple University President, Neil Theobald, has signed a pledge with Keep Guns off Campus to do just that.

On Aug. 21, Texas will allow anyone over 21 who is licensed, to carry concealed firearms on statewide campuses. That same day in 1966 was the first mass school shooting at the University of Texas.

Steven Weinberg, who won the Nobel Prize for science in 1979 and teaches physics at UT Austin has spoken out against the

concealed carry law, vowing not to allow guns in his classroom.

Gun control groups are touting an amendment attached to the bill because schools can determine “sensitive areas and buildings” that will still not allow concealed firearms. Nevertheless, gun rights advocates say they will continue the fight to arm and defend themselves.

“It is, of course, difficult to say [someone with a concealed gun will prevent a shooting] with 100 percent certainty, but I believe that colleges and universities should not be gun free zones,” Lindquist added.

DCCC held an emergency preparation exercise at the Marple campus in July 2014, which gives students Kristen Troy and Grace Brooks some comfort and sense of security, they said.

“No matter what, I won’t change the way I live my life because of the increase in school shootings,” Troy said.

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