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Students, officials weigh options of guns on campus

“I’ve been shot.”

Those are the words that the father of one of the victims in the South Mountain Community College shooting heard when his daughter called him from her cell phone on July 2008.

The students and faculty at SMCC in Phoenix, Ariz. were startled by the gunshots that hospitalized three people.

Although the shooting spree occurred in a different time zone, Tyler Junior College students and staff still feel the impact close to home.

With about 8,000 students seeking certificates and associates degrees, SMCC is a school much like TJC.

However, a typical day of homework and classes rapidly turned into students taking shelter under computer desks, hoping that the scenes from the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007 weren’t about to take place in front of them.

The shooting allegedly stemmed from a fight between the shooter and one of the victims, although the carrying or use of concealed weapons was not allowed on the campus.

It has only been three months since the shooting spree at SMCC. Since then, students and teachers in Texas have weighed the pros and cons of whether they should be allowed to bring their concealed guns on campus for safety.

Even if students and teachers were allowed to bring their guns to campus, the idea of whether or not it would promote or deter more violence is still largely up for debate.

“Personally, I don’t think that it’s a good idea. I think that it will promote more violence among both authoritarian figures as well as students,” said Gabriel Guevara, a sophomore at TJC. “Plus, I don’t think too many parents would rest easy knowing that their child’s classmates and teachers are carrying firearms.”

The term “concealed handgun” is misleading. Randy Melton, director of campus safety for TJC, said that even if someone is carrying a concealed handgun, it is still noticeable in most cases.

“Our environment is academic. Our students shouldn’t have to worry whether somebody has a gun or not,” Melton said. He went on to say that he couldn’t see how allowing students or teachers to carry concealed handguns on campus would be beneficial to a college environment.

Melton believes that “anything can happen, at any time can happen, at any time in today’s society.” For such cases, TJC has a highly trained campus safety team that is comprised of armed peace officers, and unarmed security guards.

The officers go through police academy training, which can last up to 21 weeks in the state of Texas.

Civilians can go through gun training in as little as one day.

“A teacher is not a cop,” Melton said.

Therefore, Melton supports the idea that students and teachers should let the professionals deal with safety and security.

Keturah Lewis, sophomore student at TJC, said she believes that the immaturity of some people would hinder their judgment about when to use a gun.

Lewis said the reason we have security on campus is because they are the trained officials, they know what to do if someone brings out a gun during class.

“I wouldn’t bring a gun to campus, even if I was trained to use a gun,” Lewis said.

Lewis said it would cause chaos if every student or teacher with a handgun license brought their firearm to school.

Guevara said he wouldn’t feel safe knowing his classmate was carrying a gun at school.

“Who’s to say he won’t shoot me?” he said.

In months since the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 dead, TJC has established a number of protective action steps in case of a crisis on campus.

The steps include the Apache Alerts, which are delivered via text messages to cell phones, the TJC immediate telephone notification system that uses phones as intercoms, and the loud speaker located by Ramey Hall.

Melton believes that they are given the opportunity to communicate in a variety of ways to reach as many students as possible because, after all, their mission is the safety and security of the students.

Although a number of schools have contemplated the idea of allowing teachers and students to bring a licensed concealed handgun to campus, TJC “respectfully disagrees” with the option to do so.

Melton believes when it comes to allowing something this major to occur on campus, the cons outweigh the pros.

“Most police support a concealed handgun law, but we’d like to keep it status quo right now,” Melton said.

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