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Gottlieb: Campus gun incident harkens underlying reminders

The Durham 500

By Greg Gottlieb

In November of 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy. Jeanne Clery was a 19-year-old Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. The federal statute (which requires all colleges and universities enrolled in federal financial aid programs to disclose emergency information about crimes that happen on or near their campuses) is the reason you may have woken up to a text message and/or email early Monday morning from the UNH police regarding a firearm threat at the Gables complex.

In the wake of the events that took place in Isla Vista at the University of California, Santa Barbara seven months ago and in Tallahassee at the Florida State University just Thursday morning, Monday’s minor scare — which involved a brandishing of a firearm — shouldn’t instill fear in our college community but rather serve as a reminder of the era in which we live. Whereas a college community police department’s biggest worry in the 1970s may have been the aroma of marijuana smoke lingering throughout the quad thanks to outward-facing dorm room window fans, we now live in a less predictable, more volatile world.

Just as turning in your deserved peace of mind to cower in fear, expecting that the next national-headlining attack on a school might be at your own is obviously unwarranted and unjustified, likewise is ignoring the fact that events like this seem to happen nowadays more than ever. Who knows if these grim acts of senseless violence, which seem to have infiltrated the most guiltless of communities like our nation’s education headquarters, are just an inexplicable series of events in U.S. history or rather, the unfortunate firsts in a new, terrifying part of our way of life. In either event, they should be viewed as the serious potential threats that they are.

Arguably more important than knowing what to do in the event of an active shooter or similar emergency is attempting to help stop those events from happening in the first place. Mental illness is a heavily-common factor among the people who commit these acts. Amazingly, according to a 2013 U.S. Secret Service Report, over 90 percent of attackers engage in “concerning behavior” prior to an attack. According to the same report, in nearly two-thirds of incidents involving an active shooter (including the one at FSU), more than one person has information about the attack prior to its occurrence.

It’s important that we don’t ignore signs of unaddressed mental illness in our community, as this tends to be a common cause of these tragedies in years past. We are lucky enough to attend a university that is very active in their efforts when it comes to promoting mental health and offering help to students in this period of rapid personal development. Never feel ashamed or hesitant to utilize the many tools provided by UNH Health Services for you or someone you know. That’s what they’re there for.

Greg Gottlieb is a senior hospitality management major who comments on noteworthy topics in the UNH and Durham communities. Follow Greg on Twitter @gottliebgregory.

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