Monday, September 14, 2015

Professor Ethan A Schmidt Shot on Delta State Campus in Mississippi

An American history professor was shot on Monday, September 14th, while sitting in his office at Delta State University in Cleveland in Mississippi.  The man shot, Ethan A. Schmidt, was the assistant professor of American history who taught both undergraduate and graduate courses at Delta State.  The campus remained on lockdown for several hours.  Law enforcement officials suspect Shannon Lamb, a geography and social science professor, of shooting Ethan Schmidt.  "Shannon Lamb is also a suspect in the death of a woman in Gautier, Mississippi earlier on Monday", police officials told reporters at a news conference (The New York Times).  "Cleveland Police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham told an afternoon news conference that authorities did not believe Lamb was still on the campus", which is close to the Arkansas-Mississippi state border (Reuters).  Investigators said they believe the suspect drove away from the campus after the shooting.  "He could be driving a black Dodge Avenger", authorities said, asking anyone with the information to call police (CNN).  “We’re working right now under the assumption that both events are related,” a spokesman for the Gautier police, Matthew Hoggatt, told The Sun Herald in Biloxi. “We hope that they are not. But at this point in time, information indicates that they probably are linked in some way, shape or form.”

A deputy coroner in Bolivar County, Murray Roark, said the coroner’s office had been notified of the shooting around 10:40 a.m. A twitter post was made around 12:30 p.m. telling faculty and students to “please stay inside and away from windows,” (Twitter).  Officials said the shooting took place near Jobe Hall, where many of the university’s professors have offices. More than 3,000 students are enrolled at the public university and while students and professors remained barricaded in the buildings, some took videos and photos of the campus.  At about 1 p.m., one Instagram user wrote, “2 professors and 20 students in classroom ... no word on evacuation yet” (The New York Times).

Classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day and will be cancelled tomorrow as well.  Delta State University posted on their website that "counselors from other public state institutions will be on campus tomorrow to conduct group sessions at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and individual sessions will be available beginning at 10 a.m" (Delta State University).  "I am deeply saddened by the awful news of Ethan's passing," Sean Cunningham, the department chairman, said in a statement. "He was an outstanding teacher, scholar and friend. Even more importantly, he was an incredible husband and father. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ethan's family" (New York Daily News).

How has social media - like Twitter and Instagram - helped keep our communities safe? Would the framers look highly upon social networking or would they view technology as a threat to the development of dangerous factions or extremists?  Having just learned about the case U.S. v. Lopez, should the federal government have the final say regarding gun control or should the states be the ones to decide this right?  School shootings are still continuing all over the country.  What measures should we take at the federal and/or state level to keep our schools safer? 

All Sources:

Source of the image displayed in this post: The New York Times.


Anonymous said...

I'll address the final set of questions you posed that mention school shootings and precautions that should be taken to "keep our schools safer." If you look at the policy manuals on the Delta State University website, you can actually find the school's policy on firearms. It states: "The Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning prohibits the possession of pistols, firearms or other weapons in any form by any person other than duly authorized law enforcement officials on its institutions’ premises or at any of its institutions or student functions off campus, regardless of whether such person possesses a valid permit to carry such pistols, firearms, or weapons."
The question was brought up as to what universities could possibly do to prevent more horrific events on their campuses. Well, as you can see by the policy clearly stated on the website, there was nothing more the university could do to stop this attack. Any and all firearms are banned from campus. Period. Even if a student possesses a concealed carry permit, they are not allowed to carry a gun onto campus. That's about as strict as you can get regarding gun control at a university. Yet, the attack still happened. Politicians will absolutely use this attack and others like it to push their gun control agendas. Unfortunately, this situation doesn't help their cause. The attack took place at a location that already had rules set up to ensure that firearms could never make their way in. My take on this situation is that Delta State University should enact policies similar to those of universities in Texas, in which students and faculty members are allowed to carry concealed handguns into classrooms and dormitories. It might sound crazy, but I'm going to take a guess the students and faculty members at Delta State might have had a better chance of stopping the attacker if they were able to shoot back.

Annika Olives said...

In response to Grant's comment, I agree that we can't really enact more restrictions on where to take guns, because people can still do it even if it's deemed "illegal." We can't stop people from having guns because of the Constitutional right to bear arms. However, I wouldn't necessarily want to fight violence with violence either.

Perhaps it's the actual selling of the guns that could be better controlled. Currently, if citizens want to purchase a gun, they have to fill out a short federal form that asks for basic personal information as well as whether they have been convicted for a felony or misdemeanor, are an illegal drug abuser or a fugitive, and if they have ever been admitted to a mental institution. Then, the buyer's name is run through federal databases, which can take a matter of minutes. However, these databases vary state by state on what information is provided, and, moreover, do not take into account other factors such as public hatred or racism or medical history that could be important in determining violent tendencies.

No background checks are required for sales between friends, neighbors, or family members. No federal license or background checks are required if a sale is made at a gun show between private collectors, or if the gun is bought through a private collector. This seems sort of crazy to me; plenty blog posts and infographics have stated that the gun purchasing process is easier than buying a lot of other items that look trivial in comparison, such as a car or alcohol.

Obviously, nobody can tell that somebody will be a shooter, but if we make it a bit harder for shooters to get their guns, we might see a decrease in overall gun violence. Yes, this will require more work on both the state and federal levels, but I feel that tighter regulation of gun purchasing is a step toward safety that we should consider.


Elliot Quan said...

As someone who used to sit on the fence on gun control, I find the problem a bit problematic. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. leads the world in having the highest # of guns per capita at 88.8 guns/100 residents based on estimates from Small Arms Survey, a Geneva based group. Gun laws vary in each state, and there is no federal gun register either. Even if Congress were somehow eager to address the topic (which they did for a while after a congresswoman was shot, but not for long), any chance of effective regulation seems slim considering the private sales/black market and the sheer number of guns already held by consumers. Unlike our internet addresses, guns are not linked at all to anything--they simply exist in households, safes, on private property. Even if gun sales were regulated at gun shows, a federal database was created, etc., there are just simply too many guns out there.

I'm not going to judge Dr. Lamb based on what little information we have, but perhaps in relevance to other events (Aurora Theater, Sandy Hook, etc.) mental health care is integral to this topic. And no, I'm not of the kneejerk impaired mental health causes shootings opinion; it is clear that violence in general has itself deeply ingrained in all sorts social, economic, and psychological issues as well. But perhaps improved treatment and acceptance of issues and problems in general would lead to a healthier society. Such a movement cannot be legislated or coerced, but must develop on its own. The burden to ease and eliminate violence and conflict lies not just with psychiatrists, but all educators, politicians and ultimately we the people.

It's unsurprising that a gun and mental health stigma exists in the U.S., but these issues will eventually become more significant as time goes on and hopefully addressed by then. It's only a matter of how long it will take.

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