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Editorial: Shootings and college campuses

Last week, stories about shootings on college campuses in Oregon, Arizona and Texas made national headlines. The 11 students whose lives were taken so violently over the past two weeks remind us of a sobering national trend — one that should be of immediate concern to our community.

Mass shootings occur on college campuses for a number of interrelated reasons. Reports on mass shootings reveal that they often result from a mix of factors pertaining to mental health, bigotry and lax gun laws.

College students have a very real stake in combating gun violence as well as thinking about ways to stymie mass shootings on college campuses. As Brown students who attend a college in the capital of Rhode Island, we often have direct access to legislators who influence the nature of the state’s gun laws. Despite this access, there is unfortunately very little campus-wide discourse on this topic.

Last year, Moral Voices, a group run through Brown/RISD Hillel, focused on the issue and led conversations with other campus groups on the topic. We commend efforts such as these, and we hope to see these conversations sustained in semesters to come.

Renewing discussions on gun violence also presents an opportunity for cross-campus partnerships, insofar as Brown students can work in tandem with their peers at nearby colleges and universities, such as the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College and Johnson and Wales University.

Leading and participating in conversations on mass shootings on college campuses requires local and engaged efforts. While Brown remains a nationally- and internationally-oriented academic institution, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the role that Brown plays in local conversations as well. Brown students ought to make a larger investment in participating in conversations about gun violence in the Providence and greater Rhode Island communities.

This cannot be a debate solely for legislators and political pundits. Instead, we college students need to occupy a seat at the table as well. Around the country, state legislatures are already beginning or continuing these conversations. Just this year, the Texas legislature approved a campus carry bill, permitting licensed gun owners to carry handguns on public university campuses. The Texas bill is among eight of its kind. Currently, Rhode Island law permits individual colleges and universities to decide whether students may carry concealed weapons on campus. Brown, of course, prohibits firearms on campus, except those carried by officers in the Department of Public Safety.

While the horrific tragedies such as those that occurred last week are unpredictable and often feel remote, we cannot remain numb to this issue. Very simply, we should feel like we have a personal stake in the conversations surrounding mass shootings on college campuses. We can play a direct role in changing the sorts of headlines we saw last week. It is time that we do so. 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Meghan Holloway ’16, and its members, Emma Axelrod ’18, Noah Fitzgerel ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to


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