By Andrew Terry and Kylee Smith
The Current Editor/Promotions Manager
In 2022, there have been 406 mass shootings in the United States as of Aug. 8, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit corporation whose goal is to provide public access to information about gun-related violence in the United States. In schools across the country, officials are examining the precautions in place to protect students and staff.
“I want the AC family to know that you’re partners with us, we’re in this together and we need their help,” Scott Acker, chief of the Amarillo College Police Department, said. “We can’t be everywhere at all times so if you see something you need to call us.”
Some AC students say they are feeling the effects of rising gun violence in schools directly. “Working
in education, there have been several instances where my kids have been worried about someone with a gun coming on campus and harming them and that’s hard to hear,” Justace Smithson, an education major, said. “It’s scary and it’s hard to explain to 10-year-olds that I will do my best to make sure they won’t get hurt when I know there’s not that much I can do to keep them safe,” she said.
In 2017, Texas implemented a campus carry law that allows licensed students and staff to carry concealed firearms on campus except for a few prohibited areas like campus child care centers and the Amarillo Museum of Art. The policy does not apply to rifles or unsecured handguns. “If you see some body walking around with a rifle or a handgun out on campus, I need people to call us and let us know about them,” Acker said.
ACPD offers active shooter training to faculty, staff and students. “I’m going to approach the AC president’s cabinet about making active shooter training mandatory for everybody,” Acker said. Additionally, ACPD offers department-specific active shooter training to AC staff.
Some AC employees are putting their own precautions in place.
“At FM90 we are upgrading older locks and doors to ensure students are safe while they’re on air and using production rooms,” Amy Presley, FM90 program director said. “We’re also adding locks to some preexisting doors to limit access to anyone who isn’t required in those areas.”
However, ACPD’s role does extend beyond protecting students from violent crimes. “We’re going to be visible, more approachable and have a little more compassion,” Officer Morice Jackson, ACPD’s community relations officer, said. “Some people are scared to ask questions to the police and that’s unheard of. Our job is to serve,” he said.
Officers are focused on proactively preventing crime. There are ACPD officers walking around campus checking parking lots and common areas for suspicious activity, according to Acker. Additionally, officers are available to walk students to and from their cars if they feel uncomfortable for any reason. They are also able to unlock and jump-start cars.
Illustration by KAMDEN SLOUGH | The Ranger
Jackson said students should know the names of the building they’re in so, if they are in an emergency, they can effectively communicate with emergency services to get the help they need as quickly as possible. “Be mindful of your surroundings,” he said.
While officials are focused on protecting students from physical harm, students’ mental health is also a focus. “I would encourage individuals that have difficulty managing reactions to tragedies to seek professional help,” Jerrod Hinders, AC Counseling Center director, said. “Students can access the Counseling Center by calling 806-371-5900 to set up an appointment. Our therapists are here to support students with coping in the aftermath of a tragedy, using evidenced-based practices.”
ACPD is located in Dutton Hall and can be reached by calling 806-371-5163 for non-emergencies and 806-371-5911 for emergencies.
Gunfire incidents in schools