With legislative action complicated, students must work to prevent school shootings

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By Alex Cocanig

On Saturday, Feb. 20, an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Mich. went on a random shooting spree, killing six innocent people and injuring a few more. Authorities have dismissed the shooting as having a desired target, but think it is instead a random act of violence.

The suspect, Jason Dalton, has been arrested and confessed to the crimes. Investigators have determined that Dalton had no known mental health issues or criminal record, and the firearm he used was legally owned. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_KALAMAZOO_SHOOTINGS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

This particular shooting in Kalamazoo happened frighteningly close to Western Michigan University’s campus. Given the amount of students who use Uber and similar services, this random act of violence could happen on any campus and have significantly more destructive effects.

Universities and schools of all grade levels have been targets for mass shootings in the past, especially ones where the motives are not based on culture, race or religion like Sandy Hook or Columbine.

Perhaps what makes schools so vulnerable is a large concentration of innocent people in a confined area, where security is minimal and response could easily be thwarted. The same goes for a school such as the University. We have a very large, mobile student body that at any given time during weekdays on the quad or on Green Street on weekends, would be highly vulnerable to any deranged person with a weapon.

Of course, we have an excellent police force and lots of resources for students who may not feel mentally healthy, but would that be enough to stop a random act of violence such as the one in Kalamazoo?

People have trouble processing the word “random,” especially in cases where there are victims and the crimes are heinous. Media sources who report the incidents always want to be the first to speculate why or for what reasons the incident occurred; however, in this instance, the shooting appears to have no motive. The Uber driver reportedly was driving erratically and received complaints hours before he went on a killing spree, but is this significant enough to determine a cause or motive? http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_KALAMAZOO_SHOOTINGS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Shootings have become a political issue, and rightfully so. The increasing number of innocent victims is without a doubt justification to address an issue that seems to occur so frequently in our society. Politically speaking, shootings can be caused by mental deficiency (or side effect of treatment thereof), a lack, “or excess,” of gun control, racism, extremism or a deadly concoction of more than one of those, depending on your ideology.

Generally, it seems that those who identify as liberal favor more restrictions on firearms, theoretically making them more difficult to acquire, or in extreme instances, banning them outright so not even law-abiders have them. Conservatives, on the other hand, generally feel that more properly armed and well-trained security (or citizens) could stop threats before they reach the degree of severity they tend to reach, while preserving and encouraging safe, legal ownership of firearms.

A watered-down version of these two opposing ideologies usually surfaces as local, state or more rarely federal legislation, but it doesn’t appear that we’ve rid our society of shootings.

It is my opinion that there is no foolproof way to address shootings where the motive is random, unpredictable violence. The shooter in Kalamazoo legally owned his firearms and had no history of mental illness. He could, and did, pass a background check.

There was no predicting the horrible crimes Dalton committed in Kalamazoo. He impulsively and unpredictably decided to take the lives of others and ruin his own in a very short amount of time. Perhaps more information will be revealed about him or his unknown motives as the story unfolds, but in the meantime, there is no workable legislative solution to random acts of violence.

At the very least, students (and all people) should take individual responsibility to not only think before they act, but also know that help is available and it’s never too late to ask for it before acting in a way that jeopardizes the lives of others.

At the University and most other universities across the country, we have valuable people and resources dedicated to helping students with mental health. Specifically, McKinley Health Center takes appointments by phone for students who feel as if something isn’t quite right. If time is a contributing factor, the Champaign County Mental Health Center Crisis Line may be more useful and is open after hours. http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/Clinics/mental_health.htm

Even though the shooter in Kalamazoo was not a student and did not seek the help he needed, we as a student body of over 40,000 can help ensure an incident like this does not happen within our own community by making life-saving use of the resources we have on campus.

Alex is a senior in LAS.

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