Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another University Shooting

A man shot with a shotgun and injured at least 17 people (the ABC News story says 19 people, including the gunman) and then took his own life at Northern Illinois University around 3:20 p.m. Central time.

A man described by witnesses as being thin, white, dressed in black and wearing a stocking cap walked into a lecture hall began shooting. There were no fatalities -- other than the gunman -- but three students are in critical conditions (AP story says four).

There is not yet information on who the shooter was or why he did this.

From the Washington Post.

Five people -- four victims and the gunman -- were killed (3 victims and the gunman at the scene; two later in hospitals). 22 people were shot in total. He had a shotgun and two handguns, and he came out from behind a screen in the classroom and started firing. The gunman was apparently a former NIU student who graduated in spring 2007 and had no criminal record. Police still have no motive.

From CBS2Chicago (Story posted at 9:13 p.m. Central)

A New York Times story has slightly more detail (some of which are slightly different than the other stories), but no new information than in the other stories.


prb said...

Although opposition to what I'm about to say can be argued, don't waste your breath on me unless your argument is really really good.

UNACCEPTABLE! This should not happen anymore, at least not to this extent. If a campus cannot make efficient policy changes by learning from the tragedy of VT than the administration should be retooled and our higher education system should be looked at a little more closely (point being a school the size of Harding can effectively enforce their policies unlike some schools). My prayers go out to those involved and I hope other schools can prevent these circumstances in the future. Perhaps this will "wake up" many collegiate students from their empathetic coma and help them realize that every action has an effect on those around you.

Jeremy said...

I agree that it should not happen, but I'm not sure how you could completely prevent it without going to what some would call extremes. Maybe with armed guards stationed at every building on campus, or something like that, but when someone just comes in a starts shooting, there's not a ton you can do. THIS instance I feel should have been prevented, because it's pretty hard to sneak a shotgun anywhere, but someone could easily sneak a handgun into somewhere, and once they start shooting, many people can be hurt within a very short time period. And I don't know if Harding would necessarily be able to enforce their policies in this kind of manner if something of this sort were to happen. The campus is pretty wide open and there's virtually nothing to stop someone from walking in somewhere and starting to shoot. We have armed public safety officers now, but they have a couple minute response time, at least (and that's from when they get word). Now, as far as prevention goes in terms of preventing someone from getting in such a mindset that they would do something like this, I completely agree. Someone should notice if people are that close to snapping. But then again, some people conceal their feelings pretty well, so it's hard to know if this could have been prevented or not. But yes, it seems ridiculous to have something like this occur.

Kat said...

Thank you so much for posting about this, Jeremy. This story hits incredible close to home for me. Northern Illinois is the nearest state university to my home town and I had two cousins and a number of high school friends on that campus today. Thankfully, I believe they are all safe.

I am, to use the press conference cliche, shocked and saddened by today's events. This kind of thing should never happen, but it's a sign of a damaged society, not of a flawed security or crime-prevention system. It disgusts me that schools have become the default places for angry people to lash out, but I think that if we allow these kinds of people to terrify us, we only encourage others of their kind to lash out the same way. None of us know anything about the gunman in the NIU shootings, but when we consider shooters in other school shootings we see people who are angry, unstable, and trying to stick it to the man (and their peers) in the most horrible way they possibly can. These people don't care if you put metal detectors or security guards outside. If they've decided to cause havoc, they'll find a way to cause it. Changing our schools into police states won't change the fact that for whatever reason, an alarming number of young people feel the need to lash out violently at their fellow students. We should be worrying about the societal issues at work here, not installing metal detectors and hiring more armed guards.

From everything I've heard, NIU's immediate response to the incident was as timely and appropriate as it could possibly have been and I commend them for taking every precaution to protect their students.

prb said...

jeremy: Although Harding is a wide open campus and I know Public Safety is not the be all, end all to security breeches. The fact is that a smaller student body is easier to manage policy wise. Also, smaller class sizes make these actions much more difficult. Now, I'm a fairly liberal guy, so I don't expect everyone to agree with this, but if gun laws were tightened (note I am not abdicating outlawing all guns) these things wouldn't be near as common. Also the fact that this was the fourth public shooting massacre this week is part of my frustration. Examples of others embolden students with these thoughts and for this reason NIU administrators should have heightened security that week. Also, Harding has an advantage with its stiff housing regulations. Weapons have to be kept somewhere. While it is impossible to prevent shootings completely it is completely feasible to reduce the scope of victims in these situations.

prb said...

kat: I'm sorry for what happened and I'm thankful that it wasn't any worse, but to say that we can't eradicate an evil so we shouldn't attempt to reduce it, is not a valid argument in my opinion. I have a feeling you would agree. Now, I would like to say to everyone that my first post had an unnecessary accusatory attitude towards the NIU administration, but it wasn't unfounded. I believe that if we can make a viable contribution to the combat of crime with simple policy changes we should. Similar to this quote by Robert Kennedy, "I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." I feel that if we are able to make progress at all we should. Is it completely necessary to oppose the banning of automatic weapons because if they are banned than hunting rifles and shotguns might be next, when criminals use automatic weapons to perpetrate crime everyday? Similarly, just because we fear a totalitarian campus should we deny making changes that would sacrifice small conveniences for increased safety (although some weapons may get past metal detectors, I don't think we shouldn't make it any easier for them)? Perhaps that clarifies my frustration with the issue for everyone.

Jeremy said...

patrick, i'm not trying to argue with you. it's more like we're going in the same direction but on different roads. i agree: with stricter gun laws and a tightening of security on college campuses, this could be made much harder for people to do, and could very well prevent some occurrences of this type of thing because people will see the safety measures and be discouraged. But I think if you have the type of person Kat was talking about, one who is that angry and messed up and who just wants to make others feel pain and who doesn't care about their own life (like everyone who has done this sort of thing, since they kill themselves at the end), it won't matter. And no, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to prevent it, but if, for example, you had metal detectors and armed guards at every building, what's to stop someone from just shooting them before they even know anything's wrong, walking into the nearest classroom and starting to shoot there, before turning the gun on themselves? it would only take maybe less than a minute to do all that, and like it said in one of the stories I linked to, the security guards responded in about 2 minutes (of course, that might be less if there were more guards in the same building, but there's not a ton of difference if the security guards shoot the person or they shoot themselves. it's still lives lost, albeit maybe less lives, but if you're going for no lives lost then you still haven't met your goal).

I agree with you as far as you saying that we can make it harder for people to do this sort of thing, but I think I would agree with Kat when she said that the way to really prevent this stuff is to catch it before it gets this far and try to help the person. I think one of the reasons that Harding hasn't and probably won't have a shooting like that is because, aside from it being a Christian school and hopefully inherently a bit better at helping people, Harding does have a very good support system set up. We're smaller, so more teachers can have personal relationships with students; we have a good counseling department; and hopefully a troubled person's peers will notice something is wrong because most people here are Christian. Which isn't to say that Christians are any better at recognizing when someone is in emotional distress like that than any other person, but that hopefully when we DO notice something, we'll be more likely to reach out to that person.

Plus, and this might be just plain wrong, but it would seem to me that by having such a large population of Christians here, most people would never do anything like that even if they were emotionally a wreck. This may just be casting Christians in a better light than we really are, but I would think even superficial Christians would know something's inherently wrong with killing people like that and so the number of people who have the capacity to commit an act like that would be less on average than a secular school. But that could just be my dream instead of reality.

Oh, and one of the things you said in another comment caught my eye. What other incidences have occurred this week?

prb said...

On February 7 a stabbing/shooting occurred at an Elementary School in Portsmouth, Ohio; On February 12 a student was shot at a junior high in Oxnard California, I have heard word of mouth that there four total acts of public violence that week, I have since only been able to confirm the two prior to NIU. Either way, it is common policy to issue a reminder to teachers to be on the lookout for unstable students when such acts occur. For example on Friday, Feb. 15, Harding issued an email detailing warning signs of psychological instability to its faculty. My assumption is that the fact that these acts occurred at schools for younger students might not have prompted this reminder at NIU.

Jeremy said...

Yeah, true. Although It's hard to catch something ike that in a few days. Man, it keeps sounding like I'm arguing with you, but I'm really not. :)