What's next: Campus shares thoughts on action steps after high school shooting

February 20, 2018


In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last week, the Palm Beach Atlantic University community gathered for a prayer vigil Monday night on the Rinker Green.


Students led others in prayer as well as song, hugging friends and grieving the loss of 17 lives at the South Florida school.


Between tears and sorrowful prayers, they shared their thoughts about what actions should follow the devastating incident.


Many suggested stronger background checks, more mental health care and a ban on all semi-automatic weapons.


"The military uses guns to protect people and [police officers] use them in their jobs, but people take advantage of [the ability to access guns] here," Rebecca Gedeon said.


Gedeon also believes the age requirement for a person to obtain a weapon should be increased.


Junior Sophie Crowell pointed to processes in other countries, with strict screenings and bans on certain weapons. She supports banning assault rifles coupled with implementing more rigorous background checks.


The ideas of mental health care and mental health education came up often.


Freshman Kelsey Merriman said, "I don't think all guns should be banned, but there should be more restrictions on who gets them. [Congress needs to] look into an option for restricting guns for people with mental illnesses."


Annie Misner, a student in PBA's graduate counseling program, arrived part way through the vigil. She said her professor let her class out early to attend.


"There are a lot of things that need to happen, but I think the biggest thing is mental health education," said Annie Misner. When it comes to guns, she said, "People don't appreciate the gravity of what they're holding. And they don't appreciate the gravity of human life."


One of the most important action steps in terms of mental health, Misner said, is to work to reduce stigma.


"There is such stigma about depression and anger [management] issues. People need to understand that asking for help is the bravest thing they can do," Misner said.


Senior Shawntalay Gardiner said while she understands some people feel safer with a weapon, she recognized others do not. She also said the stigma behind mental health issues needs to be addressed.


"There needs to be more awareness so people have more empathy [for those] with a mental illness," she said.


Merriman said part of the education process should include active shooter training. She also supports increasing security at schools and thinks metal detectors would provide extra safety for America's education centers.


Senior Emily Rogers disagreed with developing gun legislation, but agreed background checks and mental health care are crucial in preventing further tragedies.


"It's a heart issue. People kill people. I think the reason [America] doesn't want to address this is because we can't fix it; only God can," she said.


Across the state, other universities held vigils to mourn the victims of Wednesday's shooting. Florida Gulf Coast University held an event the same evening as PBA, also spearheaded by the school's student government association.


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