While Pacific faces two lockdowns in one week, gun control legislation flounders
Last week, nearly everyone in the Pacific University community received not one, but two Boxer Alert messages warning of active threats. On Wednesday, Pacific’s campus at Lane Community College (LCC) in Eugene went into full lockdown citing an “Armed Individual on LCC Campus.” The following Wednesday, Boxer Alerts reported that the Hillsboro campus doors were locked while police searched for a “(s)uspect in downtown Hillsboro.” Reminders about the present dangers and, more broadly, that two decades worth of school shootings and feeble legislative attempts to legislate gun ownership have done little to curb gun violence.
Most recently, in November’s elections, Oregon voters passed Measure 114, the “Changes to Firearm Ownership and Purchase Requirements Initiative.” The proposed legislation was simultaneously hailed and scorned as one of the most restrictive pieces of gun control legislation in the nation. But three months later, the measure is floundering in court, and Pacific University students and staff just received an all-too familiar reminder of the potential for gun violence on campus.
LCC’s lockdown turned out to be a false alarm: Eugene Police determined that the call was a result of “miscommunication,” possibly a hoax, before the call was made to emergency personnel. The Hillsboro alert also resolved safely, as police caught the suspect after canvasing downtown. However, the impact on everyone who received the emergency alerts should not be underestimated.
Molly Newhard, Editor-in-Chief of LCC’s student-run newspaper The Torch, published updates from the Eugene Police department and campus sources after the lockdown ended. In an interview with The Pacific Index, she said, “I wasn’t even there and I was freaking out. I bartend, so I was literally stuck at work serving drinks to people while I’m afraid that my team is going to get murdered. It was horrible. It was a horrible thing.”
Other members of The Torch staff were on campus at the time. From her conversations with them, Newhard said, “One member of my team was stuck in the library, and she said the librarians didn’t really know what to do. She’s 18 and has been doing lockdown drills since she was about 10, so she was like, ‘I knew exactly what to do—which doors to lock. But the adults were kind of at a loss.’”
Pacific University is currently drafting a new set of Emergency Operations plans. In the next issue of The Pacific Index, we will explore the new plans and improvements to Pacific’s response to threats on campus. However, prevention is the best medicine, and the recent lockdowns emphasize that students rely on our communities and governments to keep school shooters from ever making it to campus.
Measure 114 bans the sale and manufacture of magazines with a capacity higher than 10 rounds and requires a permit to purchase firearms—including background check, fingerprinting, and gun safety training. It also closes a prior loophole that allowed gun buyers to circumvent previous background check requirements. The 50.65% of Oregonians who voted for Measure 114 believe that gun control legislation is key to reducing gun violence.
But the law was almost immediately challenged by several lawsuits arguing it violated the Oregon Constitution and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Full implementation of Measure 114 has been blocked by a Harney County Circuit Court judge until the state lawsuit goes to trial—which could take months. In contrast, a federal judge determined that the law could take effect while hearings also move forward—and the conflicting conclusions of the federal and state judges casts doubt over the future of the measure as police departments around the state tentatively prepare for the implementation of the permit-to-purchase system.
Not surprising, Measure 114 has faced stern opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, and many gun rights activists. They raise concerns about the resources allocated to implement the law, the law’s legality, its impact on law-abiding gun owners, and its efficacy to reduce gun violence in a country already saturated with firearms.
However, while valid, those voices fail to offer alternative legislation to reduce gun violence—particularly in schools. They abdicate responsibility for America’s gun gluttony. Of course, legislation is only part of the solution to gun violence, but legislation is how our culture enforces social responsibility. Every law we pass is an affirmation, a proclamation of our values and expectations, as well as a refinement of our rights as participatory citizens. Measure 114 won’t stop all or even most school shootings in Oregon, but for students like me, it would be worth it if it stopped just one.
Newhard recounted another story from a student she interviewed: “[LCC] has a really high international student population, and so I had a quote from an international student who said that she couldn’t call her mom because her mom was asleep. It was the middle of the night where her mom lives. And she was like, ‘We all know about the United States and about the gun problem here. But we come here anyway to go to school.’ And she said that hearing about it and experiencing it are two very different things. So there’s this whole international perspective of like, we’re not a safe country to go to school. . . . That one really gutted me.”
Stay tuned for the next issue of The Pacific Index, where we will hear from Pacific’s Campus Public Safety office and Amy Rasmussen about changes to Pacific’s Emergency Operations plan. — Lane Johnson