Written by Kristi Kamesch
On October 5th, the 4chan “threatening web post,” as named by the UTPD, circulated UT students’ social media platforms. The post is one in a series of threads that use identical wording to make threats against a city or region. It mimicked the threat that preceded the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on October 1, 2015. This situation contextualized the 4chan post and amplified UT student anxiety. News networks in Philadelphia in the same week reported the appearance of a post threatening schools in that area. The UTPD emailed the student body saying, “There is no reason to believe this is a credible threat to our campus.” According to police, the post was vague and made from a distant location, indicating that it was unlikely to be legitimate.
These threats are part of a larger discussion regarding gun violence and methods to handle it.
These anonymous 4chan users seem to be using the heightened tension around gun control and the context of recent gun violence to gain maximum media coverage and cause fear in communities. These threats are part of a larger discussion regarding gun violence and methods to handle it.
After the Oregon shooting, President Obama and the 2016 presidential candidates publically mourned the losses in life as well as suggesting policy changes to decrease the number of shootings. Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that this shooting is yet another indicator of the need for tighter gun control. Obama’s address conveyed his anger at the repetitive and perpetual nature of these attacks, saying, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response…ends up being routine.”
This sentiment is reflected in multiple news networks, and many UT students seem unsurprised that another college campus shooting occurred. It is a heart-wrenching event, but instead of these instances being considered outrageous, they have seeped into American life as the terrible standard.
Instead of advocating for increased gun control, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson refused to blame the current gun policies and instead blamed mental illness for the perpetuation of mass gun violence in America. Trump and Carson have united in stating that the way to cut down on gun violence is to have conversations about mental health.
Trump said, “[The shooter] should have been institutionalized at some point…. This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental health problem.” Trump told CNN that what ought to be done is to put assault weapons in the hands of citizens because the “bad guys” have them. He says that law-abiding citizens are not adequately defensible without weapons to protect themselves.
“Fewer than 5% of the 120,000 gun-related killings…were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.”
John Oliver, on his show “Last Week Tonight” pointed out how it is unreasonable to cite mental illness as the overarching cause of mass gun violence. He says that the discussion of mental health in the aftermath of a mass school shooting is “deeply misleading,” because “fewer than 5% of the 120,000 gun-related killings…were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness,” a statistic provided by the American Journal of Public Health. “There’s nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest in mental health,” says Oliver, implying that he believes that this political interest is misplaced.
These conversations about gun violence and gun control promise to have tangible effects on college campuses, such as UT. In the light of the signing of S.B.11 in June 2015, which allows concealed campus carry to CHL holders, President Fenves has ordered a Campus Carry Focus Group, in accordance with the law, to recommend a framework in which S.B.11 can be implemented at UT in August 2016.
The Gun Free UT social protest group, which consists of faculty, staff, and students who are discontent with the passage of S.B.11, advocates that the law should be repealed, arguing that the implementation of S.B.11 creates an atmosphere that is not conducive to a safe, fearless educational environment.
One S.B. 11 protester, Jessica Jin, has organized an event with the tag line, “cocks not glocks,” which advocates for students to carry dildos on their backpacks to protest campus carry. On the Facebook page for the event, “Campus (DILDO) Carry,” Jin posted excerpts from the UT rules and the Texas Penal Code, which classifies dildos as “obscene.” The law states that the display of “obscene” items on campus is a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a $500 fine. Despite this, Jin’s Facebook event has achieved at least 9,800 people who replied that they were going to this event.
Talking about gun violence is quintessential to the discussion of race relations, conduct on social media, political divides, and now education.
As Americans, as Texans, and as UT college students, all we can seem to talk about lately is guns. Though some are tired of this debate, talking about gun violence is quintessential to the discussion of race relations, conduct on social media, political divides, and now education. It is true that many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of students and professors being authorized to carry guns on campus, but we cannot ignore the fact that the Texas state government has allowed CHL holders to do so.
Just as Republicans and Democrats must come to a consensus regarding gun control measures, UT faculty and students must come to terms with the new law and find ways to uphold the academic integrity of the university. Unfortunately, new waves of Internet trolls prove that online threats, real or unsubstantiated, only hinder progress to finding common ground and making campuses and communities safe from mass gun violence.