Friday, January 24

Under the Gun

Preparing for an active shooter situation at UCLA

Santa Monica College, 2013. UC Santa Barbara, 2014. Umpqua Community College, 2015.

Mass shootings are on the rise at college campuses across the United States. From dorms to classrooms, UCLA is laying out plans to keep students safe in an active shooter situation. Over 43,000 students attend this school, so any effective plan will require massive coordination and effort from police and administration.

The UCLA Office of Emergency Management has procedures set in place to address the possibility of an on-campus gunman. The Office of Residential Life trains resident assistants to handle active shooters in the dorms. The university police has been running drills this quarter. And firearms are prohibited on or near any UCLA property.

Yet debate over policies and procedures still surrounds the issue. Daily Bruin Radio's intern class explores the policies and legal issues surrounding university gun control and safety measures.

Intro by Chris Campbell, Radio Director

  • Office of Emergency Management prepares for active shooter situation

    By Nikki Harris

    Harris: Santa Monica College in 2013. UC Santa Barbara in 2014. Umpqua Community College in 2015. These three schools reflect one national trend: active shootings have more than doubled in number since 2007, the year a fourth-year English student at Virginia Tech shot 32 people dead and injured 17 more on university grounds. There have been more than 60 shootings on American college campuses since 2010 that have resulted in more than 40 deaths. Many universities across the nation, including UCLA, have restructured their emergency procedure to face this new reality. Art Kirkland, director of UCLA's Office of Emergency Management, explains how UCLA has been especially affected by this trend.

    Kirkland: Awareness has gotten a lot better. I think folks, you know, before 2007 this was not a subject that would have ever come up. Nobody would have thought about this. And every time one happens, even though they are exceedingly rare, they are much more rare than lightning strikes -- but they are also, they're gonna happen, they're gonna happen somewhere, just like lightning strikes -- and I think the level of awareness has gone up since UCSB because now we've got, it's close to home. The UC, even though we're all over the state, we're still one big family and that affected our family.

    Laura Uzes/Daily Bruin

    Harris: With a population of 68,000 students, staff and faculty and a campus of 419 acres, UCLA's size alone impedes the ability of the administration to fully prepare for an active shooter. When emergencies strike such a large school, time is of the essence.

    Kirkland: Active shooter events on college campuses are typically over before you even know they're going on. Northern Illinois University is a good example: From the time the shooter appeared and people knew something was wrong until the time the incident was over was one minute and 18 seconds. In Birmingham, that one was over in 30 seconds. So there's not a lot of time to react.

    Harris: The Office of Emergency Management, or OEM, combats this timing problem through BruinAlert, a campus-wide alert system that informs students of threats on or near the UCLA campus. BruinAlert uses several different technologies to reach students, including text message, an email and a post on Twitter and Facebook. They override AM 1630, UCLA's 24/7 campus broadcast, and every cable television channel on campus. In a shooting, they would also air external sirens located across campus. With a campus this large, information can save lives.

    Kirkland: If there were a shooting in Murphy Hall, you need to know to stay away from Murphy Hall. If you're in Murphy Hall, you need to know to lock the doors, run away if you can ... and then not do anything unless you're told to. The last thing the police needs while they're trying to run down an active shooter is everybody in Murphy Hall running out to hug the police for coming to their rescue.

    Harris: Some students have acknowledged disappointment with BruinAlert's consistency, saying it arbitrarily covers some incidents and ignores others. But Kirkland explains that police have to verify a threat for a BruinAlert to be issued, a process that can outlast the initial threat.

    Kirkland: We have different levels of validation. Active shooters are one of those things that have a very low validation level. If I've got any reason to believe there is an active shooter then an alert will go out.

    Harris: UCLA has procedure in place but does not require faculty, staff or students to undergo active shooter training. The administration focuses on how the university would react after the event but leaves it up to individual students and departments to seek out safety training from UCPD. Alicia Espinosa, the facilities and auxiliary services manager for UCLA's psychology department, coordinated an active shooter training in September. She believes the trainings helps faculty and staff recognize potential threats.

    Espinosa: I think they're very valuable. It brings into discussion -- people will discuss it more and be more mindful, not just ignoring people coming in and out. You put it on your radar and notice. That's what these trainings actually provide, make you more alert. It kind of tells you what to watch out for -- now you're like, I'm going to report it.

    Harris: Kirkland said requiring training for faculty and students would be worthwhile, but the sheer number of students makes training for them a logistical feat. Kirkland added seminars are most effective in groups of 25 to 30 students, but dividing a student population of 40,000 like that is a near-impossible task to coordinate in time and instruction. That's not to say nobody is trained -- UCLA's annual safety report says that in 2014, "UCPD crime prevention presentations and awareness programs reached approximately 24,000 individuals." Although staff and faculty are strongly urged to attend these events, the emotional nature of their content prevents UCLA administration from requiring attendance.

    Kirkland: Even the training bothers some people. They're upset by having to deal with the concept. So they're not going to require people to sit through training that could be psychologically. Folks have been through trauma in the past and this might make them relive the trauma, and we're really cognizant of that, and that's one of the reasons why I believe we've never said it's a requirement for everyone to go through training.

    Harris: However, many students would feel safer knowing that both they and the rest of UCLA's campus had a basic understanding of emergency response. Sheridan Bowers, a third-year international development studies student, was visiting her sister in Isla Vista when the UC Santa Barbara shooting occurred in 2014. She believes that training provides a important framework for surviving an active shooter situation.

    Bowers: I think if students at least have the training and the background so that it's at least in their subconscious, even if they're not thinking about it in the moment, it still has been sitting in their subconscious for a week, a month, a year.

    Harris: UCLA Anderson School of Management held a safety training in December titled "Shots Fired: When Lightning Strikes." Prompted by the recent tragedy in Paris, the safety seminar is one example of UCLA preparing itself for disaster. This kind of training can be invaluable should lightning ever strike at UCLA, a rarity that, these days, doesn't seem so unlikely after all.

    For Daily Bruin Radio, this is Nikki Harris.

  • Office of Residential Life prepares for active shooters in the dorms

    By Joseph Palomo

    Palomo: Imagine it's a bright, sunny day just like any other here at UCLA. You're sitting in your dorm room, studying for midterms, when you hear loud gunshots. And then you hear screams. What would you do?

    With the recent shooting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 as well as the shooting at UC Santa Barbara on May 23, 2014; many must wonder just how safe they are living on campus. Rodrigo Aranda is a second-year biology student living in Sproul Hall, and he sees the potential threat of an active shooter.

    Aranda: I feel that there's going to be a mass shooting here within the next decade.

    Palomo: With approximately ten thousand students residing in campus dorms, maintaining safety and peace of mind is crucial to the Hill's stability. Raymond Lu is a fourth-year political science student. He is also in his second year as a resident assistant. Like every other RA, he has gone through active-shooter training.

    Lu: Active-shooter training is when university police and other various departments throughout our campus come to talk to us about safety protocol, safety tips and what we should do in situations of stress and situations of violence. If anyone brings a gun, how do we respond? What's our first priority? What do we do to keep ourselves safe? And how do we help others maintain that safety?

    Daily Bruin file photo

    Palomo: For some students, the current active-shooter protocol and training is simply not enough. They believe armed security should be considered.

    Aranda: I feel that it would make campuses safer for the most part because if something were to go down, there would be somebody, or multiple people, on campus all ready to, you know, react to whatever is going on.

    Palomo: The Office of Residential Life works closely with the UCPD to ensure the safety of students. If an RA needs an officer or a member of security to help handle a situation, they can have full confidence that they will not be left alone.

    Lu: We as ResLife -- this is my opinion -- we as ResLife have a good relationship with UCPD because they help us enforce laws that we can't because we essentially as RA's don't have much power to actually tell someone, "You have to leave our campus," or escort someone off our campus. So we depend on UCPD for that who actually has the power of enforcement.

    Palomo: So there is active-shooter training for RAs, and they have support from the UCPD. RAs and security have various duties such as patrols to ensure that a violent act will not occur. On top of that, UCLA is located in Westwood, a neighborhood for which the LA Times reports a low rate of violent crimes.

    Lu: I don't speak for ResLife, but for me personally, I've been here for four years and ... I believe our community, the Hill, is very safe with all the access controls and patrols we have. But it's not a pertinent thing in our minds, but it could happen.

    Palomo: Steven Lee, a third-year transfer student who is majoring in political science and lives in the university apartments, believes that UCLA has a "laid-back" vibe that should not be ruined with fear and excessive preventative measures for a threat that may never happen.

    Lee: No, I think UCLA's carefree attitude is something that should be admired and praised and something that shouldn't be changed. Knock on wood, I hope nothing happens, but if something does happen, I hope that it doesn't scare everybody into living in fear.

    Palomo: To some, this sense of security is simply naive. Aranda feels that the sheltered backgrounds many UCLA students come from blind them from the real threat of an active shooter. He says UCLA already takes steps to bring awareness to subjects such as sexual assault and alcohol abuse through educational videos and courses, so perhaps it is time to bring gun violence in university housing into the mix as a preventative measure.

    Aranda: I feel that a lot of people are naive and they wouldn't know what to do if something were to happen. And I think those videos, although they're not a lot, they're better than nothing. To give a general idea of what one should do if something were to happen.

    Palomo: It's hard to say whether or not UCLA is doing enough to prevent the threat of an active shooter in university housing. RA training is based primarily on instinct because of the spontaneous nature of a shooting.

    Lu: One of the things training specified is there is not one absolute way to handle if there is an active shooter on campus. There's no one way to deal with it -- you have to assess the situation to the best of your own ability and act upon your own instincts. If an active shooter comes, what we say is: We need to evaluate our environment and see where the closest exits are, what we could use to barricade doors, what we could use to protect ourselves, what we could use as weapons, what happens if the cop comes, what do we do as leaders of the community to keep ourselves safe and others safe.

    Palomo: It is fair to say that most UCLA students do not anticipate a shooting in areas of residence. It has never happened here before, and hopefully it never will. However, the lack of anticipation does not mean that the university isn't taking precautions to prevent one. It has empowered RAs and the UCPD to act in whatever way necessary. The real question seems to be whether or not students need to begin a conversation regarding their own safety or if the status quo will do for now.

    For Daily Bruin Radio, this is Joseph Palomo.

  • UCPD prepares for active shooter situations

    By Amanda Rubalcava

    Rubalcava: In a room full of staff and students beneath Pauley Pavilion, loud gunshots were heard blasting from upstairs. Some shrieked, some ran for cover, but most remained seated. Fortunately on this Friday afternoon, every shot was a blank.

    Littlestone: We have done training like this and drills for different departments on campus and presented something similar to this to different student groups, staff groups and faculty groups on campus in the past as well.

    Rubalcava: That was Lt. Mark Littlestone of the UCLA Police Department. He was one of the speakers at an active shooter response training workshop here at UCLA.

    Littlestone: So, UCLA is a big target. We're worldwide known, so should a terrorist decide that they wanted to make a big name for themselves, UCLA might be something that they're looking at. However, with the kinds of people that we have on this campus, and the collegiality and the fact that people work together to try to report on things where they see that someone needs assistance, that's not a place they're going to want to think about.

    Jessica Zhou/Daily Bruin

    Rubalcava: The gunshots in Pauley were harmless, but they weren't last December in the deadly San Bernardino shooting. Same for the shots which echoed through the streets of Isla Vista two years back. As active shooter situations like these seem to become an unpredictable and deadly reality, UCPD has been educating officers for possible attacks. Luis De Vivero, a sergeant in the Threat Management Unit for UCPD, acknowledges an evolution of active shooter trainings that helps police respond to these high-stakes threats.

    De Vivero: Active shooter training has changed over the years. So it's no longer waiting for three or four officers to arrive to a particular location, setting up, then going into the area to respond to. Active shooter training has now evolved to where the first person responding to the location is going to engage and take an active role in stopping the threat.

    Rubalcava: Being prepared for an active shooter situation is becoming a standardized component of police training. With the incorporation of tactical training following historical shootings, response preparation is learning from the past to help survival in the future.

    De Vivero: We look at all cases, not just local ones that happened on campus ... We constantly look at how to improve ourselves, so we look at all incidents and try to figure out what we can do to prevent them because obviously the threats are always changing. They're dynamic as well.

    Rubalcava: Police preparedness consists of more than purely in-field training. Beyond the officers that roam campus any given day, Littlestone states that having other forces join in and help in the case of an attack develops a more efficient response.

    Littlestone: Plus we have mutual aid agreements with other agencies around us like the Los Angeles Police Department, Culver City and Santa Monica, and our federal partners across the street on Wilshire are also going to respond to something like this. I mean it's going to be a county-wide response should we have an active shooter incident at UCLA.

    Rubalcava: So while the police are taking past cases and learning from them, what should the students be doing? After all, out of the 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, 24.4% have happened in educational environments, according to FBI.

    Littlestone: One of the things that we stress here that is important to recognize is that safety is everyone's responsibility. They can't always rely on having a police officer or some other first responder right around the corner should something like this happen.

    Rubalcava: When an active shooter situation happened at Santa Monica College back in 2013, the library was one place the gunman targeted. I asked Littlestone to guide us through what a Bruin should do if the same thing were to happen here at Powell Library.

    Littlestone: Again, it's gonna depend on what they hear and know at the time. Should they hear shots, then the first response that we tell people is to try to get out of the building. That's the "Run" option should they be notified.

    Rubalcava: The "Run" Option that Littlestone mentions is the first option in the "Run. Hide. Fight." motto that the FBI promotes in order to survive an active shooter event.

    Littlestone: Should it be too close to them when they hear the shots outside their study area, then we're gonna suggest that they hide and start to prepare for what to do should that shooter breach the area that they're in. Then they've got to prepare to fight.

    Rubalcava: But would UCLA students be prepared if this were to happen to our campus?

    De Vivero: I wouldn't use those exact words. I think the UCLA students can be prepared, I just think there are areas that we can work to improve. The students are the least-reached group of folks we have here on campus. I would say the staff have more resources and have attended more active shooter presentations.

    Rubalcava: UCPD hopes to organize a presentation for all student groups on campus, similar to the presentations shown to incoming freshman or transfer students. For now, student research and awareness are key to better safety. If fatal gunshots are ever fired on campus, as opposed to the blanks heard at Pauley Pavilion, everyone's survival depends on the steps they've taken to prepare.

    For Daily Bruin Radio, this is Amanda Rubalcava.

  • Conflict persists about constitutionality of on-campus gun control

    By Marisa Piceno

    Piceno: Lately, in the wake of shootings on college campuses, a new question has been introduced as to whether students should have the right to carry a gun on school grounds. These shootings at schools have left many students scared, helpless and defenseless to come to class, raising the possibility of stricter on-campus gun control.

    Winkler: Government has good reason to limit guns in certain places, and if government believes that colleges are places that are is too sensitive, then it has a good reason to support that. Unlikely to be unconstitutional, don’t necessarily think it’s the best policy, but it would survive.

    Piceno: Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA school of law and is the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. He recognizes that Americans have always had gun rights, and at the same time we’ve also had gun control. And those two ideas are not compatible.

    At UCLA, this controversy has created a divide between students over whether or not legislation allowing concealed weapons on college campuses should be passed. Supporters of pro-gun movements believe that students have every right to protect themselves from potential attackers. On the opposing side, gun control advocates think schools should tighten gun policies to keep guns off campus.

    Zhitong Qian/Daily Bruin

    Hordequin: I do think that there needs to be a mandatory no-gun policy at universities in light of these different shootings on college campuses and students feeling they aren’t safe. It’s just one more step in ensuring that students are able to go to class, get their education in a way that they are comfortable.

    Piceno: Current undergraduate students association council internal vice president Heather Hourdequin believes that the lack of guns on college campuses keeps students safe. She says safety is her top priority.

    Hordequin: I’ve been programming events to increase interactions between students and university police in a way that isn’t confrontational. Often times students' first interactions with UCPD are coming to somebody’s apartment, busting them for noise or pulling them over for speeding or violating a traffic stop.

    Piceno: Rather than allowing students to carry armed weapons, Hourdequin believes there are other ways to keep college campuses safe. She has also worked with the West Side Alliance, UCPD, landlords and other campus entities that target safety initiatives at UCLA.

    Hordequin: I really want to have students feel comfortable going to UCPD, and so we’ve been having open forums ever since I’ve been internal vice president. We’ve had pizza with police, and I hope to program an event next quarter in which students can engage and interact with UCPD in a more humanizing way.

    Piceno: On the opposing side, supporters of pro-gun movements believe that students have every right to protect themselves from potential attackers. These tragedies indicate a need to dismiss the current gun regulations and instead allow concealed weapons on college campuses.

    Current Bruin Republicans president and fourth-year economics and political science student Jake Kohlhepp supports concealed carry and dismisses gun-free zones on college campuses.

    Kohlhepp: I’m actually someone that supports allowing concealed carry and firearms on campus. As long as people lawfully obtain those firearms, I think that should be fine. I tend to feel that shooters are more likely to target places that are already declared as gun-free zones, specifically because the people that follow those types of rules are what we would term the "good guys," the people that would be fighting for justice.

    Piceno: Kohlhepp believes that if you have a mass shooter and a group of unarmed students, it is very difficult for a group of students to stop the event because it involves at least several people choosing to sacrifice their lives. Rather than enforcing stricter gun control regulations, Kohlhepp is confident that if concealed gun carry on college campuses were allowed, students can protect other students if a mass shooting were to ever occur on a college campus.

    Kohlhepp: When you have someone with a gun, as opposed to someone without a gun, the odds change. Everything is completely different, because now you can actually stop that person without having to put that person’s life completely in danger.

    Piceno: According to, the current majority of colleges and universities in the United States, such as Wyoming, New Mexico, New York and many more, prohibit firearms on their campuses. As of right now, measures are currently being taken by higher education committees across the United States to allow concealed guns on college campuses. Schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Texas and Wisconsin now allow firearms on their premises, and there are similar measures pending in other states. At UCLA, the possession of firearms and other weapons are prohibited on the UCLA campus, off-campus buildings owned or operated by the University and areas adjacent to university property.

    With this divide between students, this constant debate will only continue to proliferate and students will continue to voice their judgement on gun control at UCLA and beyond.

    For Daily Bruin Radio, this is Marisa Piceno.