Eat. Sleep. School. Repeat.
This seemingly simple phrase is what many students around the United States incorporate into their daily lives. However, where some used to find solace, lies a perplexing truth that has become the new reality around the country: school safety.
On Tuesday May 24, an armed gunman seamlessly walked into a Texas elementary school, shooting and killing 21 individuals—19 students and 2 teachers. This has not only affected the lives of the victim’s families and communities but has gained traction nationwide as many began to wonder where the next tragedy will occur.
Since the beginning of 2022, NPR reports that 27 school shootings have occurred in the United States. A database from Education Week reveals since 2018, there have been 119 school shootings in the U.S.—killing 88 and injuring over 213 individuals.
Watching tragedies such as Uvalde unfold, one can only wonder if an event such as this could occur at their school. The idea of it lingers in the minds of college students around the country—some even close to home.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s campus is open to the public—meaning that anyone can come onto campus at any given time. While this helps the businesses on campus gain exposure and revenue, it can potentially invoke a feeling of discomfort in students.
In a 2021 study conducted by ADT, more than 82 percent of college students reported feeling concerned about their personal safety as they returned to their college campuses. 97 percent said that they consider their personal safety as they go about daily campus life and try to protect themselves by always carrying their phones, familiarizing themselves with their surroundings or traveling in groups or pairs.
While USM’s campus is populated with campus security and blue lighted emergency stations, some would say that safety risks still outweigh the benefits.
In an Instagram poll that I conducted, I asked students of USM to express their thoughts regarding campus safety. Over 12 individuals replied that they do not always feel safe on campus. Sophomore Kennedy Newson was one of them.
“I don’t feel safe at all because of how open USM’s campus is. Anybody can have access to any building on campus honestly,” she said. “We have no real security if we’re being honest.”
As a student attending a public university, there have been times when I questioned my safety. Knowing that campus is open to anyone, I cannot say that the thought of a mass shooting occurring on campus has not crossed my mind. It has, multiple times. The idea of someone other than campus security walking around with a gun in their possession makes me uneasy.
As Americans, it is our right to feel free—it is also a vital part of the college experience. How can we feel free when our freedoms can be taken away from us in the form of one bullet?
I would hope that a tragedy like Uvalde would not occur on our campus, however we never know someone’s true intentions.
How many innocent lives are going to be taken before lawmakers make adequate changes to governmental policies? One of the prevalent issues in the United States right now is gun violence and accessibility to weapons. The Pew Research Center reports that four-in-ten U.S. adults say that they live in a household with a gun, including 30 percent who say they personally own one.
Mississippi gun laws are some of the most relaxed in the country. To purchase a handgun, you must be at least 21 years old, have a state issued ID and have a completed background check. Those 18 years or older can purchase a long gun by going through the previously mentioned steps. Mississippi also allows for open carry of firearms if someone is 18 or older and is legally allowed to own the weapon. Having laws such as these make school grounds/college campuses easy targets for individuals wanting to commit mass shootings or other crimes against humanity. Larger campus gatherings are also easy opportunities for these individuals to use their weapons to hurt others. Whether we want to realize it or not, we are not safe. Anywhere. We’re not safe at school, home, in public or even in our vehicles.
An unwavering fear of the unknown washes over me as I come to terms with the current state of this country. Innocent children cannot attend school without being subjected to the incomprehensible insensibility of those who abuse their freedoms. Students are now living with invisible targets on their backs, schools becoming the next slaughterhouses of America.
How did we get to this point in American history? Why are schools becoming places of sorrow instead of solely creating the leaders of tomorrow?
Is this going to become our version of reality? America, the place that was once labeled “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is now a place where gun violence is the number one cause of death for its youth. This is the America that we live in. This is the America that now exists.