DEATH IN THE CLASSROOM: Phawker Interns Weigh In On Campus Shootings, Ben Carson, Self-Defense, Gun Control & Gun Madness


EDITOR’S NOTE: At one point in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, aging playboy oceanographer Steve Zissou, aka Bill Murray, asks aloud, “Do the interns get Glocks?” Not at Phawker, Steve. But they do get the microphone and a chance to voice their opinion from time to time — this being one of them. In the wake of the unspeakable slaughter of nine college students in Roseburg 12 days ago, and presidential candidate Ben Carson’s remark afterwards that the students should have rushed the gunman (“I wouldn’t have just stood there,” he said.), I asked the interns — Temple students one and all — to share their thoughts on guns and gun control, campus mass shootings, Carson’s remarks, and what they would do in that situation. Do they carry? Do they scope out escape routes and places to hide in every class room they sit in? Do they even bother to think about this in between massacres? Here’s what they had to say:

Screenshot_2015-09-28-00-37-44-1-e1443419169743SHARNITTA MIDGETT: The first time I ever held a gun in my hand was in a nightmare. I remember, it was heavy and cold and I almost dropped it, but I kept a good grip because someone was trying to break into my house. I’ve had that nightmare many, many nights and it’s always the same, always set in a school or a building where someone has a grudge and a gun and all anyone else has the possibility of death. In those dreams, fear paralyzes me, and I think that if I had actually been experiencing this, my brain would stop working immediately. I believe other people feel this way too, which is why Ben Carson saying that during the Oregon college shooting he wouldn’t have just stood there, is unsettling and unrealistic. When you’re seconds away from life and death or paralysis, you might actually just stand there. I think about how my dorm room door is thick enough for me to hide behind, and how Anderson Hall seems safer than Paley Library because there are more floors to hide on. I especially thought about this during the college shooting scare in Philadelphia just recently. Then I think about how I shouldn’t be thinking about these things in a country that makes advances every year. But it seems the changes in policies regarding my laptop services change faster than policies regarding things that could kill me.

Ben LehmanBEN LEHMAN: Like most of the Republican presidential candidates, Ben Carson is faced with a difficult problem. The far right embodied by the Tea Party and supported by the NRA is an extremely important force for the Republican Party, and it’s necessary for any candidate to pander to this audience at this stage of the campaign. This is exactly what Dr. Carson is doing. The remarks he made about the Oregon shooting last week are a part of a broader narrative that’s meant to capture the attention of key voters. I do not think Carson necessarily believes all of the things he says, but considering the example of bigotry Donald Trump has set, it seems politically advantageous for him to make some of these outlandish statements. Trump has made some of the most absurd, hateful claims yet he is number one in the polls, so clearly his message is resonating with certain people, and Carson is just trying to tap into some of that. But politics aside, Carson’s comments are still dangerous because the gun issue in the United States is one that desperately needs to be addressed, and this rhetoric is counter productive.

It is incomprehensible to me that we are the only developed nation where mass shootings are a recurring event. In his speech after the Oregon shooting, President Obama showed the frustration that many people feel over this. The shock, the grief, the vague calls for action have all become routine, and yet we are unable to pass a simple background check law. The far right continues its pro-gun rhetoric in spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence that does not support their claims. The NRA equally continues to use its money and influence to kill any anti-gun legislation and no progress is made. Personally, I do not own a gun and don’t intend to. But that does not mean I’m against all guns. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania I was around guns a lot, and I think law-abiding citizens should continue to be able to exercise their second amendment rights. But it should not be as easy as it is to get a gun in this country, and when it’s a matter of people getting killed, there is no logical reason to oppose reform.

LIZ_WIEST_BYLINEELIZABETH WEIST: Whenever an epidemic breaks out, the first course of action is to pinpoint a pathogen that can be treated, and the same sort of mentality is applied to inexplicable gun tragedies. Guns, mental illness, misogyny, white privilege, racism are all symptoms we try to attribute to the disease that is mass shootings. While Carson’s statement may have lacked empathy or, arguably, logic, I think remarks have been taken out of context by the media to paint Carson as the steak-chomping, gun-wielding elitist Conservative that Americans love to antagonize in the midst of a weapon-related tragedy, as if this will provide us all with the reason it happened and someone to blame. I think we distract ourselves with the exasperating opinions of political leaders to avoid the fact that we are the ones who carry the burden of responsibility. This tendency ultimately causes more problems. We become bitter and angry when political, religious or social leaders cannot provide us with the solace and comfort we so desperately crave or need in times of tragedy. We accuse them of lacking empathy or blaming the victims to drown out the truth we refuse to admit to ourselves: that no one has the correct answer. Drawing from my own personal experience, in Catholic high school, the very technique described by Carson — rushing the shooter — was taught to us. Every year, faculty members strictly instructed us with detailed methods regarding how to barricade doors, break windows, and run in a direct manner at the shooter in order to create a distraction. To reiterate, this response to a gunman is taught to American students as if it is a proven textbook answer, because “experts” have passed it down to us, as the allegedly perfect way to solve a situation that is not only astronomically rare but also extraordinarily unpredictable.

Warren Lipka BylinerWARREN LIPKA: My initial reaction to the gun problem is take the fucking guns. If you don’t have a gun you can’t kill people with a gun. Change the constitution, allow for a certain type of limited defensive weapon, allow for a certain type of hunting rifle, then you can deal with mass killings by .22 caliber pistols and shot guns. Which may seem fucked but it is a huge improvement over having to deal with what we have been dealing with. We could sponsor mass gun turn-ins. Mirror what happens after what is done after wars. We could grandfather in certain guns and phase out other undesirable weapons in due time. We could stop exporting weapons to other countries and muzzle the gun manufacturers that are complacent in tens of thousands of deaths a year. Supplementing this should be a massive reduction in our armed forces and police force. But this is never going to happen in our lifetime. Or at least not within our current political system. Fuck the Supreme Court.