Marine Corps reservist and freshman psychology major David Pina has wondered how Montclair State University would respond to an active shooter situation. In the aftermath of last week’s Florida high school shooting, he has not been alone. The rest of the campus community has been contemplating that same question.
While serving in the Marine Corps on active duty for four years, Pina felt that he received proper training throughout his service to prepare for this type of emergency. He learned how to handle an armed person and take control within a hostile situation.
“If there was an active shooter, I would tell my class to get down and away from the windows,” Pina said. “I do think there should be some procedures enforced to ensure students’ safety.”
On Feb. 14, Nikolas Cruz opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed and 14 more were taken to the hospital, making the massacre one of the deadliest school shootings in the U.S.
Arnaud Kurze, a justice studies professor at Montclair State, works on social movements and its theories. He observed the social protests that have been staged since the shooting. He pointed out how many people have been participating in movements like the upcoming March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24. Kurze wonders if it will have an impact in preventing another tragedy like this.
“As faculty, I was being explained to a year or so ago that we do have a plan and we do have the facilities and the personnel to respond to these situations, so I feel safe,” Kurze said.
Kurze blames the government’s lack of interest in reshaping and replacing laws that reflect the needs of today’s crime rates. However, he believes Montclair State will be well protected.
English professor Jeffrey Gonzalez, who has a child with a disability, was upset to see the news about the Florida shooting because it continues to happen with no action being done.
“When I think about my son and where he goes to pre-K, I can’t even fathom because there are babies in there,” Gonzalez said. “There are people dedicating their lives working with children. The prevalence of these weapons that really were designed for the battlefield are showing up in angry people’s hands. It’s terrifying.”
Capt. Kieran Barrett of the University Police Department indicated in a written statement that there is a plan of action to prepare in case of an active shooter, but he does not want to reveal it. It would allow a potential threat to gain valued insight into the campus’ operations, which would be counterproductive to the police department’s objectives.
“We keep a very close eye on any threat made to the campus community or individually and treat it very seriously,” Barrett said. “We communicate known threats to the campus and don’t hide potential threats here at MSU.”
Drills for law enforcement and their partners are conducted throughout the year, so those who would respond to the incident would be very familiar with protocols. The University Police Department also provides training in active shooter response for any organization or department that is interested, but faculty and residence life staff are required to do the training, so they are well-prepared if an incident were to happen during a class or in a residence building.
Barrett recalled a shooting threat on Montclair State’s campus back in 2008.
“We found a very vague reference to a shooting on campus with a specific date,” Barrett said. “As a result, we had a visible increase in law enforcement for the day that included over 100 police officers. The person that wrote the threat was subsequently identified, arrested and charged but did not ever have the means to carry out the crime.”
He also brought up another event in the written statement where a threat was made to the LGBTQ community, igniting the same level of enforcement.
Despite the fear that these situations sparked on Montclair State’s campus, Barrett found that these situations tended to unite the community in general and tested the community’s level of readiness.