The Chronicle’s View: Lessons learned from a national tragedy

In the wake of shock over the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, many are left wondering how this event could have been prevented. Some will jump on the shootings as an opportunity to debate gun control on campus. Others will fixate on the grisly details-who died, who was the shooter and what were the details. But rather than using Virginia Tech as a way to argue the Second Amendment or satisfy morbid curiosity, we should take a moment to mourn with our fellow college students before coming together as a community to demand protocol for public safety in all schools.

Once an unthinkable act, school shootings have occurred at an alarming frequency over the last decade. In the event that more happen, we need to be able to respond accordingly.

Since 1996, there have been six fatal shootings on college campuses, five of which have happened since 2000. School shootings are a reality for which college campuses everywhere need to be prepared.

Yesterday’s events illustrate that much.

According to tentative reports, the first 911 call regarding the shootings was received at 7:15 a.m. Shots were fired in a Residence Halls building, killing two people. The school remained open. Nearly two hours later, shots were reported in the school’s engineering building, where a majority of those involved were killed or injured. Campus was not closed until after the second shooting.

In the coming days, people will point fingers of blame. Should the administration have closed the school? Why wasn’t there an immediate lockdown? What if students were allowed to carry guns on campus for protection? Should there have been more security in the Residence Halls? Why wasn’t anyone prepared?

This criticism is unavoidable in the media. Rather than join in the repetitive banter, college campuses everywhere need to take a lesson from this and other deadly campus events to create some sort of protocol to prepare students, faculty and staff for a similar event.

Beginning in elementary school, we are taught how to handle fire and earthquake alarms. These things become a natural reflex to us. We know to get under a desk or doorway in an earthquake. We know to exit a building and close doors behind us in a fire. We need to know what to do when someone on our campus is opening fire.

The U’s administration needs to have a set procedure for handling violence on campus. If a shooting occurs in a campus building, students need to be aware of how to handle the situation.

While we mourn yesterday’s tragic events, we hope the lessons learned from them will encourage a safer future for students everywhere.