It turned out not to be the country’s latest shooting massacre, but as Facebook notifications and news alerts appeared today on mobile phones and laptop screens, many were reminded of the importance of staying safe.
When first reports of the shooting at a high school just three miles away from the college started disseminating, some feared the worst.
Police responded to Roosevelt High School this morning and arrested a 17-year-old. It appears he was wanted as a runaway, but things escalated when officers tried to take him into custody in a counselor’s office. Police fired shots.
Roosevelt was locked down, and national news reports indicated two were injured.
With school shootings around the nation appearing more often in the news, some at Honolulu Community College are starting to ask what can be done to keep students safe.
Last semester, student government vice president Misty Chiechi proposed arming school security guards with non lethal weapons such as guns that fire rubber bullets and beanbags.
Chiechi succeeded last semester in getting handcuffs and batons for the school’s uniformed guards. Chiechi said the incident at Roosevelt is one more reason that even more needs to be done. Chiechi says this semester she’ll try again to arm the college’s guards with nonlethal weapons.
Today, the coverage of school, shopping mall, and workplace shootings is fueling the debate about gun control and gun rights.
Student Life employee Tracy Alambatin reacted during the first few minutes of local media reports. She was watching a live stream on her office computer. “It’s a gun free zone,” Alambatin said. She said that in light of the incident, the state’s comparatively strict gun laws appeared ineffective.
But nearly a half-hour later Star Advertiser reported that it was actually police who fired. A 17-year-old boy was shot in the wrist. He was reportedly threatening officers with a kitchen knife as they tried to take him into custody. He had run away from home.
Alambatin, who founded the college’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty—a Libertarian organization—pointed out that guns aren’t the only weapons people can use to do harm, and that guns may have saved lives today. “We have all these gun free zones,” she said, “now are we going to have to make everywhere knife free zones?”
Liberal arts student and writing center tutor Rebecca Brown said people should be given mental health checks before buying a gun.
On December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 26 students and faculty members before he shot himself in the head. It was the latest school killing, and surpassed the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in number of deaths.
Following the Newtown massacre, the debate about the right to own assault style weapons was underway. Many also blamed a lack of mental health services. Others said that background checks needed to be stricter. But no laws were changed.
On campus, people hail from both sides.
Student government senator Song Han said that the wait to get a gun shows poor planning on part of officials. “I don’t think its thought out,” she said, “the wait for a permit is so long.”
Another student senator, Jeff Kanemoto, said he thinks gun regulations aren’t overly restrictive, and added that in Hawaii the weapon of choice is farmers’ blades, not guns.
Former Honolulu Community College student Aaron Fernandez said that gun ownership “kind of doesn’t make sense.” He said that hunting is the only reason people would need firearms.
Liberal arts student Keoni Bumgarner said he’s afraid of Hawaii becoming too much like the mainland when it comes to gun violence. “We don’t need Hawaii turning into another LA,” he said. “The current restrictions are fine.”
Larry Kuapahi, a former liberal arts student, said that people should be allowed to carry guns in public. “Open carry should be allowed for protection,” he said.
Hawaii has experienced tragedies of its own, most notably in 1999 when Byran Uyesugi walked into Xerox on Nimitz Highway and began shooting coworkers with a semiautomatic pistol. He killed seven. The infamous mass murder sent shockwaves across the nation.
Incidents like these instill fear in many.
On Novermber 5th last year at 10:15 a.m., Honolulu Community College students got alerts via email that a man with a rifle was seen near the school. The student lounge was evacuated, and tense moments ensued. Police searched for a gunman and found nothing. About a half-hour after the initial report, students received the all clear.
Today at Roosevelt, parents lined Nehoa Street to wait for their children to return, and this time they did.
(Sean Brown contributed to the reporting of this article)