by Katilin Jarrell|Guest Writer
With violence seemingly on the rise across the country, it is no surprise that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s stances on how to control this increase have made waves in this year’s presidential election and have also sparked questions for students on the Whitworth University campus.
One example is the debate over gun control issues. Students and other U.S. voters have noted that efforts to reform federal gun laws have seemed to fall flat in Congress. For many, gun control is an issue of pressing importance, especially on school campuses. According to everytownresearch.org, there have been 197 school shootings in America since 2013, which is an average of nearly one per week.
With the release of the statistics, Whitworth University students are left wondering what they can do to protect themselves against not only school shootings, but other types of potential attacks on campus.
Washington is one of only 18 states where schools are allowed to decide their own weapons policy, according to Armedcampuses.org. According to the Whitworth University 2016-2017 Student Handbook, Whitworth is a weapons-free campus.
“Firearms, fireworks, explosives and explosive devices, and other weapons are prohibited anywhere on property owned or leased by Whitworth,” according to the handbook.
“It has not been a problem, I have not had students in my office saying, ‘I need to have my gun’” campus security supervisor Jacquelyn McCord said.
According to the handbook, “weapons” include, but [are] not limited to, “flammable gases/materials or components that could become explosive, firearms, pellet/BB guns, paintball guns, home-manufactured cannons, bows and arrows, martial-arts devices, switchblade knives and other knives with blades longer than three inches.”
It is important that students are able to find other ways to feel empowered and protect themselves against attackers, while remaining within the parameters. One company, Damsel in Defense, looks to do just that. Its goal is to arm individuals across the nation with alternative tools for protection that are less lethal than traditional weapons.
“College-age women are four times more likely to be assaulted, we need to teach people to be prepared and aware without being paranoid,” said Michelle Butler, one of the company’s independent distributors.
Many think that it is only women who need to worry about arming themselves against potential attackers. However, that isn’t necessarily true. According to rain.org, one out of every 10 rape victims are male.
Although Damsel in Defense is largely targeted toward women, men could also benefit from its products. For example, the company carries a product called Sock it to Me, which is simply a durable, pointed, aluminum tool which attached to any keychain and can be used to strike against a potential attacker. The Sock it to Me, unlike pepper spray, is much less likely to negatively affect the person attempting to defend themselves and is easily disguised as a decorative key chain accessory.
I have not had students in my office saying ‘I need to have my gun.’”— Jacquelyn McCord, campus security advisor
Students can also take common sense measures, such as “not walking alone at night, trying to park in a well-lit spot and always being aware of the surroundings and not being distracted by things such as cell phones,” McCord said.
She also wishes to remind people that if they ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable, they can call campus security who will give them a safe ride to and from anywhere on campus, which is a privilege that should not be abused as it starts to get colder outside.
“I was not even aware the school offered this kind of service, and I have been here for three years now,” senior Cheyenne Gibson said. “This is a great safety measure offered by campus security and is an option that should be better advertised on campus.”
Often students across campus as well as school faculty in classrooms and staff giving tours to potential freshman, comment on what a safe place Whitworth’s campus is, but according to a survey conducted among students, 45.07 percent of students have felt unsafe on campus on at least one occasion. In addition, 29.58 percent of people who completed the survey reported either they or someone they know has been assaulted on school grounds, highlighting that campus safety may be a larger issue than many may think.
“I think violence on campus is not often addressed,” Gibson said. “Whitworth could host a seminar each semester which brings awareness to the issue of assault because education is a powerful weapon against violence, but in the meantime students need to take initiative and educate themselves.”
Contact Kaitlin Jarrell at firstname.lastname@example.org