Guns, Whiteboards, and the Mentally Ill: How to Cure Campuses From Mass Shootings

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Buying a $299 whiteboard that can stop bullets is a startling reality for educational professionals across the country. The LA Times estimates that Hardwire LLC sold around 100 such boards to schools in 5 different states. According to the website “the high-tech tablet — which hangs on a hook, measures 18-by-20 inches and comes in pink, blue, and green — can be used as a personal shield for professors under attack and as a portable writing pad in quieter times”.

Being an alternative to arming teachers, the invention of this multifunctional tablet draws attention to the fears in the American education system.

But does this mean that people are simply waiting for more mass shootings to happen? Does it mean that it’s no longer safe to send your kids to school, or pursue a career in education?

I decided to look at the statistics to find the definitive answer, specifically a Small Arms Survey New Armed Actors Research Note, provides a reliable data on gun ownership in participating countries. According to their report, the United States has 270,000,000 firearms in the possession of its civilian population alone, making the U.S. the world’s leader in civilian gun ownership. Although almost every American agrees that mass shootings, particularly those at schools, are a very important issue, there remains a great deal of disagreement on how to solve the problem. Anti-gun folks will argue that all mass shootings happened just for one reason: the availability of guns. The solution they offer is to prohibit guns, and voilà, the problem is solved! But the reality is – the prohibition of guns will not happened because American society is not ready for that. The latest poll by Gallup showed that 74 percent of Americans are against banning guns for civilians! Thus, it will take many more significant events like school shootings for Americans to change their perceptions on firearms and reform gun laws in the United States. Furthermore, the government can’t even tighten existing gun laws due to the political rivalry, and strong lobbying of pro-gun organizations. In contrast, pro-gun politicians suggest that we arm teachers, and again, voilà, the problem will be solved. The irony of this proposition is all too clear to me, so I have to ask: is it really going to help? Mother Jones analyzed 62 mass shootings in America, finding that not even one of these events was prevented by an armed bystander.  In fact, some of these heroes were actually injured or killed as a result of their attempts to stop the attack.

Live Science indicates that although mass shootings are not a common phenomena, when compared to other violent crimes in America, the amount has been steadily increasing. The same source suggests that most of the shooters had difficulty to connect with other people and wanted to be seen as notorious as possible. The interesting characteristic of almost all mass shooters is their ability to plan and execute their projected shootings despite their mental instability. This reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” where murder was meticulously planned and executed by the unknown narrator who is suffering from a mental disease. The Huffington Post suggests that “a history of abuse or ineffective parenting, a tendency to set fires or hurt animals, a sadistic streak, and self-centeredness and a lack of compassion” all can characterize mass shooters. So will arming teachers prevent these people from shooting until their last breath? Probably not.

The problem of mass shootings, especially on campuses, is not only due to the availability of guns, but also to the lack of proper treatment for the mentally-ill. Real Clear Politics encourages us to address the widespread problems of young unstable adolescents and to stop meaningless fight about gun control. The violence exposure through TV and video games combined with alienation, individualistic culture, pressure to succeed, and mental disturbance, can create a lonely mass shooter who might come to your college, school, movie theatre, or grocery store tomorrow.

I decided to look at the statistics again, but now within the American mental health care system. Washington Post provides seven facts about mental health system in the United States, among those are high price tags on mental health services, bias in mental health treatments, and restricted access to mental medical care. Fox News also breaks down for us what is wrong with mental health care in America, and the picture is not all bright. Inadequate training of professionals in the industry and sky-high costs of treatment itself are only two perplexing realities of mental health care system today.

So how do we cure campuses form mass shootings? Changes can happen, but people should not only be aware of the issue realities, they should fiercely advocate for changing the ineffective policies that currently exist. Tightening gun laws to prevent mentally-ill people from accessing firearms, and providing more mobility and resources to mentally-ill people alone can decrease mass shooting incidents. The problem itself should be viewed as multidimensional issue that involves government, local communities, educational system, and healthcare.

There is no time for meaningless fights about gun control and dubious ideas to transform schools and colleges to citadels with armed teachers. A $299 pink board also won’t help tackle the problem.

But what should teachers and students do in the meantime?

Teachers will buy those colorful boards hoping they will never use them as “protection shields”, put guns in their classroom drawers, and start to teach hoping that history will never repeat itself.

In memory of Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting.

Valeriya Metla is a young professional, passionate about international relations, immigration issues, and social and criminal justice. She holds two Bachelor Degrees in regional studies and international criminal justice. Contact Valeriya at

Featured image courtesy of [woodleywonderworks via Flickr]

Valeriya Metla
Valeriya Metla is a young professional, passionate about international relations, immigration issues, and social and criminal justice. She holds two Bachelor Degrees in regional studies and international criminal justice. Contact Valeriya at



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