A DVD that teaches students how to act in the event of a shooting is causing quite a stir in the US. Released in late June, the program is already being shown in more than 500 universities.
Shots Fired on Campus was developed in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre. Created by security experts and former FBI agents, the 20 minute DVD teaches college students how to develop a "survival mind-set"; to keep an eye out for "pre-incident indicators" and to "take out the shooter" if they can't run or hide. It also includes a preparation guide for teachers if the worse should happen. Depending on its intended use, the programme costs between $500 and $1500 (€400 - €1100).
But as increasing numbers of universities choose to use the program, students are becoming worried about its implications. Some say it's a "step in the right direction", while others claim that it only teaches students "to be afraid of each other".
The manufacturers are selling the DVD online.
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"Irrational and unhealthy paranoia"
Brooks Wilbraham is a 22-year-old student studying English literature. When safety officers were given the right to carry firearms on his campus, he and his friends formed a group to protest the decision."Videos like these do not make a campus safer; they simply make students more fearful of threats which, although horrible, should not be dwelt on to the exclusion of learning and community support. Advising students to be so fearful that they are aware of which objects, in any given classroom, are suitable for protection from gunshots, only results in living a life steeped in irrational and unhealthy paranoia.
"The so-called "shooter" referred to in the video is not a force of nature or someone unknown; he or she is a person who deserves the respect and help of his or her fellow students.
"It is, of course, important for the university to enact policies which would best protect the university's students. Many beneficial policies are, in fact, listed at the beginning and end of the video, such as increased campus awareness of students who may be suffering from situational or psychological difficulties. Preventative measures will always be the most effective."
"Every student should have the right to carry a concealed gun"
Nathan Hayes is a student at Western Kentucky University and a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus."I think that this training is a step in the right direction. It's like when there is a fire in a university or a campus; there are very few casualties because people have been taught how to act. One of the reasons why so many people were killed at Virginia Tech is because they resorted to the only training they'd been taught and acted (as if) there was a tornado out there. They stayed in the building, jumped on the floor and didn't move.
"Last Saturday, a guy stepped out of his car and started shooting on my campus. It took two minutes for the cops to get there but the guy was already gone. Thank God, nobody was killed, but that kind of event can happen anywhere, anytime and the only people who can do something are the people who happen to be there. This is one of the reasons why I think that every student should have the right to carry a concealed gun. Personally I feel like the only person I can trust to keep myself safe is me.I agree with the idea of teaching students how to react; however, I don't like the part in the DVD when they advise students to report everything they think is unusual. It keeps people in a state of paranoia and can lead to tension and violence, like right after 9/11 when a bunch of Muslims were attacked by some of their fellow citizens in the US."
"We’re travelling from university to university to present and sell the programme, and it works pretty well"
Randy Spivey is the executive director of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, a corporation that specialises in hostage survival training."With this program we teach students how to identify a shooter before he actually shoots. Indications such as a fascination for guns or a sudden change of behaviour in a student should be taken into account and reported immediately.
"We then explain what options students have if they're in the middle of a shooting. We don't teach techniques but we show them how they can use things around them to distract the shooter and then take advantage of their superiority to neutralise him. This technique was inspired by what happened in United Flight 93 when passengers acted as a team to overcome the hijackers.
"We're travelling from university to university, setting up big trade shows to present and sell the program, and it works pretty well. We have a very positive response from students, like today in Atlanta, Georgia. A few universities have refused the programme because shootings are scary to them, and they don't want to hear about it. They don't understand that by explaining to the students what options they have we make them feel confident so they're no longer scared."