On the evening of Feb. 13th, Michigan State University’s (MSU) East Lansing campus was struck with grief when three students were killed and five others were wounded at Berkey Hall by an intruder Anthony Dwayne McRae.
Despite being a developed country, it is safe to say mass shootings are quintessentially American. In 2018, there were 120.5 firearms for every 100 American residents making us the country with the highest ownership; Yemen came second with nearly half ours at 52.8 firearms. Time and time again, we see senseless murders of individuals who aren’t even of legal age to drive, vote or drink. Team Enough reports that, in our country, 316 people are shot daily and 106 of them are fatally wounded.
Gun violence is so prevalent that policy makers have become complacent in its normalization. If our lives are not prioritized until they lose someone close to them from a senseless gun violation, when will politicians acknowledge the potential contributions from young generations who’ve fallen victim to these tragedies?
Two of the students killed and the others injured were in Professor Marco Diaz-Munoz’s classroom when the masked assailant entered the back door and shot at least 15 times.
While authorities pursued the gunman, the university issued a four hour shelter-in-place as well as an alert to “Run, Hide, Fight” at 8:31 pm. Police discovered 43-year-old McRae four miles north of campus walking towards his home. He took his own life shortly after.
On his person and in his bag, police found two handguns, a two-page note detailing next potential location targets in New Jersey, nine loaded magazines of ammunition, two bus tickets and about 50 rounds of loose ammunition. Though his records revealed a 2019 gun conviction misdemeanor, it did not prohibit the purchase of the two handguns. Both were purchased legally by McRae but not registered.
The evening of Feb.15, thousands in the community flooded the campus for the vigil held at The Rock to offer condolences for the three lives lost: 20-year-olds Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner and 19-year-old Arielle Anderson. All three were from the suburbs of Detroit.
Some MSU freshmen are recent graduates and survivors of the November 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School which is a little over an hour drive away from the college campus. Seven were shot and four of them were fatally wounded.
Gun violence is so cyclic in nature that children recovering from a shooting less than two years ago are retraumatized.
“The most haunting picture of last night was watching the cameras pan through the crowds and seeing a young person wearing an ‘Oxford Strong’ sweatshirt,” U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin said.
Classes resumed on Feb. 20. Berkey Hall, the site of the shooting, will stay closed for the remainder of the semester.
Mass shootings continue to gain prevalence in America. MSU marked the 67th mass shooting according to the Gun Violence Archive. As of Mar. 28, there have already been 64 more in the U.S., totaling 131.
For some perspective, there have been more shootings in 2023 than days passed. In 2020, our country made up 79% of all gun-related killings on an international scale according to BBC.
“MSU’s campus is a special place for so many, and it is now the site of another senseless act of gun violence,” MSU alum and Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.
Whitmer is demanding universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders and laws for safely storing firearms.
“I’m not one to believe more is going to help solve the problem. I also think there’s a mental health crisis that’s going on that we haven’t figured out how to address yet as a society,” said UM writing studies Professor Ben Lauren who taught at MSU from 2014 to 2022.
He described the shooting as horrific and saddening.
“The thing that surprised me is how hard it was to come to a college campus and teach, especially the next day given the stories I’ve heard from colleagues about what that night was like,” Lauren said.
Lauren is a native Floridian and an alumnus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty members were shot and killed five years ago.
“We just see such a huge number of these across all levels of schooling, so it’s hard to imagine we’re doing enough given the prevalence,” Lauren said. “ It certainly feels like this is the kind of thing that should never happen.”
Caleb Carter, a senior pursuing Health Science, grew up about 15 minutes away from the East Lansing Campus. He would’ve graduated MSU this year had he not gotten into UM.
“You know, I don’t live there right now… I feel more disconnected from the event. It is still sometimes, like really sad to see,” Caleb said. “My friends will post events they had on campus and stuff for remembrance of the victims.”
Many of his friends and family attended or currently attend MSU. He reported that those who graduated last year are heartbroken.
“This place, where they have so many happy and safe memories— it’s kinda like those memories are almost taken from them by this event,” Carter said.
Senior creative writing and psychology major Amanda Fisher shared the same sentiment. Her fiance, a current senior at MSU, texted her the news before the story broke.
“My initial reaction was kind of to just freeze, and then cry and then call my friends to come be with me. It was just scary because I had other friends who were on campus,” Fisher said. “They’re best friends in the same place where three students literally lost their lives. So it’s just crazy to think that that’s in the same hallways as their best memories. They’re no longer in danger, but even knowing that it was possible — that it could happen.”
Carter acknowledges most college campuses are open thus more difficult to secure but he advises that colleges model UM’s cane card access needed for classroom entry. It’s unclear whether or not MSU buildings have similar access protocols but he thinks it could be preventative for intruders.
It’s been made apparent that increased safety in our schools is a choice between life and death. However, we don’t foster a safer learning environment by arming teachers. When did they agree to put their life on the line as opposed to first-responders like police? These security measures need to be nationally mandated for k-12 institutions and universities immediately.
America accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population but we somehow own 46% of civilian-owned guns. In a Gallup poll taken after the shooting, 63% of Americans responded saying they were dissatisfied with gun laws. Reducing gun violence could be feasible if firearm safety training was required and if there was a federal ban on handguns, military-style rifles, large capacity magazines or semiautomatic assault weapons.
Council of Foreign Relations reports after a 1989 mass shooting in Montreal killed 14 students, Canadian policy makers implemented many of these laws expeditiously. They own 35% of firearms but do not experience the sheer volume of mass shootings as we do.
UM sent out a school-wide email addressing the shooting and listing resources available for students and who they contact should a similar situation arise. Fisher believes that lockdown drills should continue from K-12 onto college campuses to practice proper protocol.
How incredibly sad it is that we have to train our children to “run, hide or fight” when there are clear preventative solutions to combating gun violence that have statistically worked for other countries.
“When you can get an automatic rifle without a background check or something along those lines when you’re young clearly, it’s created opportunities for people to engage in really bad and devastating behavior,” Lauren said.
GoFundMe pages have been made for several victims and their families. Please support them if you have the means to.