Verbum Ultimum: One Week Later

Last Friday’s shooting served as a jarring reminder and a call to action.

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 11/9/18 2:10am

Last Friday, Nov. 2, the Dartmouth campus received a shelter advisory after a drive-by shooting on the intersection of School and West Wheelock Streets injured a 19-year-old male non-Dartmouth student. Until the shelter advisory was lifted, the entire community sheltered in place, sending flurries of texts and GroupMe messages to check on friends and family and seek more information.

Many students spent much of the lockdown listening to the Upper Valley Area Police and Fire radio stream to stay current with the situation. Officers relayed reports that gunshots were heard at multiple locations around campus, and that students in a practice room in the Hopkins Center for the Arts were afraid that the gunman was attempting to enter. Those listening eventually found out that the police said they had no reason to believe that more than one gunshot was fired near campus, and that the person trying to enter the practice room was actually a custodian. 

The broadcasted stream, which at one point approximated that over 21,000 listeners were tuned in, now poses a double-edged question for campus security. While the system fed the natural human urge to stay in the know during a fearful situation, it also fed the spread of misinformation and blew campus’s collective sense of panic out of proportion before any accounts could be confirmed. 

It is, however, understandable why students reacted with such strong emotions following such a tumultuous and deadly year. In 2018, there have been almost as many mass shootings as there have been days. Just two weeks ago, yet another mass shooting made headlines when 11 Jewish congregants were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Less than two weeks after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, yet another mass shooting made headlines when a gunman killed 12 people in a bar in Thousand Oaks, California on Wednesday night. People are primed, at this point, to see the headlines before they even appear — it’s no wonder that Dartmouth students reacted to the situation with such fear. 

There are students on this campus from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who have now experienced gun violence twice in a single year. The gun control debate is a major national issue that has always impacted Americans’ livelihood and safety — but now it’s hit close to home. Dartmouth may feel like a bubble, but last Friday’s shooting should remind students that they are not protected and disconnected from the outside world. New Hampshire has one of the least restrictive gun laws in the country — following the Parkland shooting this past February, New Hampshire blocked a gun control bill that would have prohibited those under 21 years old from buying guns and banned bump stocks. Current laws do not require a license or permit to possess or purchase a gun. In 2017, the state repealed its concealed carry law, which required people to have a license in order to carry a concealed gun. New Hampshire has been loosening up its gun laws while thousands are dying at home and across the country. 

“It could never happen in Hanover” no longer applies (and never did) — where we exist in relation to our surroundings matters. The Dartmouth community is not immune to the tragedies happening every day. Gun violence in America is an epidemic. This country has one of the highest rates of death by firearms in the developed world. It’s easy to feel safe and protected in Hanover, so it’s natural to be left scared and confused once the shield most thought they were enveloped by burst. Now that the Dartmouth community has experienced the kind of fear brought on by gun violence, every one of its members has the responsibility to advocate for change. Last Friday’s shooting became national news because of Dartmouth’s status and privilege; but in underprivileged communities across the country — and close to the College — the prevalence of gun violence often goes unreported. 

For many students, life at Dartmouth resumed as normal when this week began. But it’s important to be aware that this event affected people in different ways. The shooting last Friday may have been a terrifying wake-up call for those who never thought this could happen here. For others, it may have been a triggering and traumatic experience. This might have been just another shooting for those who are so exposed and maybe even desensitized to gun violence at home. Regardless, Dartmouth students, faculty, administrators and anyone who calls this place home have the responsibility to take care of one another and prevent this from happening in our community and communities across the nation. No American is unaffected by gun violence. From Dartmouth’s place of privilege, we all have the responsibility to use our voices and influence to take action. 

The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, both executive editors and the editor-in-chief.