In the months following the Sandy Hook shootings, lawmakers have been looking for effective security measures to employ at campuses around the country.
A bill proposed to the Indiana General Assembly would allow college students to carry concealed weapons.
While the bill would not affect Butler because it is a private institution, the bill still raises questions about how campuses are prepared to deal with active shooters.
A slim chance exists that an active shooter could appear on any given campus.
Most students would not know what to do in such an event, said Ben Hunter, executive director of public safety.
“Statistically, most people freeze,” he said. “No one wants to think that that kind of thing can happen.”
The Butler University Police Department conducts full-scale active shooter training in the summer, accompanied by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police and residence life staff.
Each BUPD vehicle is equipped with full-body armor and helmets in the event of an emergency, Hunter said.
“I can tell you that every Butler officer would respond with due haste,” said Bill Weber, assistant police chief of operations.
A 20-minute video called “Shots Fired On Campus” can be found on the BUPD website for students who sign in with their “My Butler” username and password.
“The video is one of the best I’ve seen,” Hunter said.
The video was shown at poorly attended events in the past, but Hunter encourages more students to watch so they are prepared in case of emergency.
The video teaches three steps to respond to a shooter: hide out, get out or call out. Much depends on the proximity of the gunman, said Andrew Ryan, assistant police chief of administration.
“You have to do what you can in order to survive,” Weber said.
It is important to be prepared to attack the gunman as a group or to barricade oneself in a room if necessary, Ryan said.
If the gunman is present in the room and it isn’t possible to talk to a 911 dispatcher, leaving an open line still alerts emergency personnel to the situation. They may be able to hear background noise or further investigate any suspicious situation, Weber said.
If exiting is the best solution, make sure to keep both hands in the air. Police are trained to assume that hidden hands could be concealing a weapon.
BUPD plans on communicating important information to students via Dawg Alert, similar to the lockdown.
“Security upgrades are ongoing,” Ryan said. “A long-term plan is necessary.”
Butler is working on a three-year plan to improve campus safety. Some efforts include having card access for all doors so buildings can be locked in case of an emergency and adding security cameras.
“I would like to see more officers on staff,” Ryan said.
Ryan is a member of the Assessment and Care Team, a committee which was formed at Butler shortly after the shooting at Virginia Tech.
The aim of the program is not necessarily to find students that are likely to be shooters, but rather to direct students having performance issues, behavioral issues or issues with BUPD to proper help, Ryan said.
“The resources keep students here and engaged,” Ryan said. “We’re making sure people aren’t missing things.”
Often times, the ACT committee will reach out to students who are missing classes frequently, not engaging much with their peers, or who have just lost a family member or loved one in order to make sure they are receiving the proper support.
Even though student behavior is monitored, students being able to conceal weapons on campus would do more harm than good, Ryan said.
“It’s a tool, but if you don’t practice, how will you be able to react?” he said.
Students would not have adequate training with their weapons, said Weber, who has sometimes used 1,200 bullets during his training.
“Even with that, I don’t hit the target every single time,” he said.
The presence of alcohol, mixed with firearms on campus, would also be a safety concern, Weber said. Students would also be more likely to be careless with their guns, and they may leave them in places where others could potentially find and use them.
“Our ability would be severely hindered,” added Hunter.
Several cases have occurred where, during the chaos of open fire, police have shot other officers who weren’t in uniform, Weber said. If students were added into the mix, shooter descriptions could be confused and someone could needlessly die.