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Oregon College Shootings Put Focus on Campus Security
Schools emphasize emergency notifications and quick responses
Updated Oct. 2, 2015 8:18 p.m. ET (abstract)
By ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES and JIM CARLTON
The shootings that left 10 dead at an Oregon community college on Thursday are focusing attention on security measures on U.S. campuses and stoking debate over whether firearms should be allowed on campus for protection.
Federal officials said Friday that six guns had been recovered from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., where the shooting took place, along with a steel-enhanced flak jacket and five magazines of ammunition. Seven more guns were found at the alleged gunman’s nearby apartment, officials said.
In recent years, colleges across the U.S. have implemented measures to identify potentially violent students and respond more effectively to mass shootings. Many of the changes came in the wake of the 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech that killed 33 people, in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history.
Colleges have focused broadly on two areas: improving emergency notifications to people on campus and responding quickly and forcefully to crises, said S. Daniel Carter, director of a campus-safety initiative at VTV Family Outreach Foundation, which was formed as a result of the Virginia incident. “The campus-security landscape has changed profoundly since the 2007 shootings,” he said.
The number of campus attacks at colleges has increased in recent decades, according to a 2010 study by a group of federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service. Under the study’s definition of such incidents, they grew to 83 in the 2000s—including data only through 2008—from 79 in the 1990s and 40 in the 1980s. Data compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for stricter gun controls, show that shootings at colleges increased to 31 in 2014 from 14 in 2013. Thursday’s incident was the 17th this year, according to the group.
More broadly in the U.S., federal authorities also have reported an increase in mass shootings in recent years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified 160 shootings from 2000 through 2013 that it defined as “active shooter” events, or an “individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” There were an average of 16.4 active-shooter incidents a year between 2007 and 2013, up from an average of 6.4 a year from 2000 to 2006. A total of 486 people were killed and 557 wounded in the incidents.
The Virginia Tech shootings highlighted weaknesses in identifying potentially troubled students and intervening to prevent them from acting violently, security experts say. Though the gunman had raised concerns among numerous people on campus who encountered him, there was no centralized system to gather such warning signs.
Since then, many colleges have implemented “threat-assessment programs” that bring together law enforcement, administrators, counselors and others to share information and investigate worrisome reports, said Gene Deisinger, managing partner at Sigma Threat Management Associates and a former deputy police chief at Virginia Tech. “Once you’ve got an initial concern, you don’t wait,” he said.