Active Threat Training Overlooks Causes

By Jackson Adams

If you are a Freshman or Sophomore, you likely attended a mandatory “Active Threat” seminar put on by the school administration during J-Term. Those of you fortunate enough to have missed it the first time were offered a second opportunity a few weeks ago.

The presentation included a video produced by the Department of Homeland Security preaching the keys to surviving an Active Threat situation: “Run. Hide. Fight.” The video in all of its cheesy, overwrought, Die Hard-esque glory, harkens back to the 1951 U.S. Civil Defense film “Duck and Cover’’ which taught school children to duck and cover to save themselves in the event of a nuclear attack. The cute turtle has been ditched in favor of a burly Jack Bauer clone dressed in black and wielding a shotgun, but the message is essentially the same.

The problem is that, while a nuclear attack was a very real threat to the U.S. in the 50s, suggesting that active threat situations loom over us daily is inaccurate and defeatist. The reality is that active threat situations on college campuses are exceedingly rare. Making the video (and mandating campus presentations) was a tacit admission of disinterest in addressing the root causes of campus related gun violence: a lack of gun control and the continuing failure of a mental healthcare system little changed from the one that existed during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Over the past 50 years there has been an average of 6 people killed every year on college campuses by gun violence. That’s roughly equal to the number felled every year from trauma sustained playing football, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Industry Research. But that pales in comparison to the nearly 1,500 college students killed every year in traffic accidents, 1,400 killed in alcohol related incidents, and 1,300 who commit suicide every year. In fact, if you went to college for 92 years straight, you would still only have a 1 in 100 chance of a shooting taking place on your campus. Even then, the odds of you being involved are miniscule.

The fear mongering of the national media that follows “major tragedies” overshadows the less sensational tragedies that occur every day, and as a result, time and resources are wasted on programs like the Active Threat seminars. Instead of giving us a half hour on why our instincts to run and hide when faced with a gun are 100 percent correct, why not give a 30 minute seminar on the signs of alcohol poisoning or what to do if you think your friend is suffering from depression. Even a short defensive driving seminar could save more lives than watching Goth Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot up an office building in a government funded video.

College shootings are national tragedies, but so are all preventable deaths. Sure, it’s time we take a critical look at how we can change gun control policy and the mental healthcare system in the United States, but it’s also time we recognize the reality of the situation: a video and a talk on campus attacks will do nothing to prevent such attacks in the future. So by all means, continue the national discussion about the causes and consequences of “Active Threat” situations, but stop suggesting that people should live in fear by forcing them to attend seminars. The real threats aren’t so sensational.