Gun Violence Responses: Training and Activism

Ariana Howard ‘20 

Staff Writer

Photo by John Crawford ’20

According to the FBI, there were 27 active shooting incidents in 2018 in which at least three individuals were harmed. Since 2000, there have been over 300 shootings. Overall, active shootings occur in an education setting 20.8 percent of the time.

 Campus Police Chief Dr. Todd Sigler mentions in his presentation regarding active shooter protocol that although higher education campuses only account for six percent of the 20.8 percent, this figure is double what it was in 2000. Since the rates of active shooting incidents on college campuses are rising, colleges throughout the country, including Davidson, have begun placing greater emphasis on providing active shooting protocol training for their students, faculty, and staff.

 Chief Sigler explained that the Davidson community needs to be trained on what to do if there is an active shooter on campus because there is often a limited amount of time to act. “Take the shooting incident at Dayton,” he explained. “They only had 30 seconds. There is no time for controlled discussion.”

 As of 2017, each first-year class receives a 45-minute presentation on the active shooter protocol during orientation, and RLO has required Resident Advisors to participate in the full hour training. However, Davidson does not require anyone else to participate in this full training.  

Chief Sigler explained that if it were up to him, students would receive annual training. “I want folks to have a sense of caution, but not paranoia,” he said. 

Dr. Cynthia Lewis, an English professor who recently participated in the training, also believes that the active shooter protocol presentation that Chief Sigler provides should be required for everyone. Ultimately, she believes that the most important aspect of the training is that it pushes individuals to create a “skeletal plan” in the event of an emergency. “I intend to have a plan in place for every class and classroom I’m part of from now on,” Dr. Lewis commented.

The threat of gun violence on Davidson’s campus became particularly apparent after the April 30th shooting at UNCC where a former student shot and killed two students and injured four others. Although Davidson acknowledges this potential threat, the presence of the honor code makes students reluctant to be suspicious of strangers. “I am trying to bring in a degree of skepticism in an environment that doesn’t really like to do that,” said Chief Sigler.

Since every case of gun violence is different, Chief Sigler does not tell individuals when they should behave one way versus another. For example, many individuals who participate in his training ask him when they should leave their location and when they should stay. “I don’t teach that way,” he states.

Instead, Chief Sigler teaches a mindset for everyone to adopt in order to be able to make fast and logical decisions. He categorizes these mindsets as active survival, movement and distance, and situational awareness. These mindsets entail actively choosing not to be a victim, considering one’s location, and optimizing on provided resources. Through these training exercises, Chief Sigler hopes that if a crisis were to occur, instead of freezing, individuals would be able to immediately jump into action. 

“You really don’t know how you are going to act until you are put in a life or death situation; however, you can do your best to prepare,” said Chief Sigler.

Chief Sigler has trained approximately 200 individuals in the Davidson community since he updated his presentation in July. “I am encouraged by the turnout and the level of interest, even if it is unfortunate that [this interest] is driven by actual events,” he said. 

Not only are more members of the Davidson community participating in the training, but also a growing number of students have joined the Davidson Students Demand Action (DSDA) club. 

Accoring to Cadie McNaboe ‘22, the president of the club, DSDA is specifically an anti-gun violence organization and not an anti-gun organization. “This is a common misunderstanding among the general Davidson College population,” McNaboe states. Instead of “endorsing any specific legislation that inhibits one’s right to bear arms,” DSDA believes in “the power of stories” as a way to promote dialogue around this divisive issue.  

Both Chief Sigler and DSDA are currently looking for ways to include mental health in the conversation surrounding gun violence when it comes to deterrence and preparation. Chief Sigler noted in his presentation, 64 percent of shooters were reported to have experienced symptoms of mental illness prior to perpetrating an attack. For this reason, organizations on Davidson’s campus, such as DSDA, are stressing the importance of addressing the emotional needs of each individual in our community through promoting empathy as a means for increasing safety on Davidson’s campus.

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