On Wednesday morning, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus entered a state of lockdown as a shooter in the engineering killed a professor and then himself.
The incident was "merely" a targeted murder-suicide that happened on a campus, and not a "school shooting" in the sense that most Americans imagine (when one gunman opens fire on many students). With less than a week before finals, UCLA soon reopened its campus, and students headed back to work as police investigated the crime scene and news teams lined the building to pontificate whether or not we need to change those gosh darn gun laws.
Mass shootings occur, on average, every day in America. Lawmakers and citizens debate how to ensure student safety as campus shootings become more prevalent. While pundits distanced from the incident offered their hot takes, UCLA students told Complex how they were feeling in the wake of Wednesday's events. Some expressed empathy for the shooter, but many were desensitized to this sort of tragedy. An alarming 7 out of 10 people I interviewed had been through similar firearm lockdown experiences, and most students just needed to put the shooting behind them and get back to studying.
Jessica, 21, Psychology
“I was very concerned when I heard the shooter ended up killing themselves. It really tugged on my heartstrings that someone was under so much duress that they felt the need to hurt others and themselves. The fact that there aren’t adequate mental health services available to them…this is the result.
There are qualified clinicians at UCLA trying their best to treat student clients, but there’s not enough funding. There are few clinicians and people have to go for weeks on end without being able to see a therapist, if they can even qualify to see one here. There are so many barriers to mental health wellness that, if not there, might’ve prevented this.
At my high school, there have been several lockdowns for shootings, so I kinda know the drill ... The general sentiment today was ‘Oh, this is inconvenient. I have finals.’”
Jonathan, 19, Anthropology
“Back in community college I had a lockdown three times in one year for a similar active shooter situation, so today wasn’t that crazy.”
Jake, 23, Chemistry
“At first people were just shrugging it off, but then as we got more news, people started to get freaked out ... I’ve had a few [shooting] lockdowns like these in middle school and high school.
The thing is, the measures they could have used to prevent this ... do you wanna put metal detectors in all the buildings? You kinda just have to accept the risk that something might happen. This could’ve happened to anyone, anywhere in America.”
Chris, 23, Engineering
“All my courses are in that building [of the shooting], but I slept in today because I was up all night working on a project.
This is my first experience with a shooter lockdown so far ... I’d feel comfortable with concealed carry on campus because I’ve grown up with people who have guns around and they tend to treat them with more respect and safety than first time buyers, later in life.”
Erica, 25, Law School Grad
“As long as we have gun laws like we have now, nothing could’ve been done to prevent this, and nothing will be able to prevent this from happening again in the future ... As a smaller woman, I’m already pretty paranoid when it comes to walking back to my car at night, but the idea of gun violence has become so normalized to me that I often find myself immediately looking for places where I’d be able to hide when entering rooms for the first time.”
Daniel, 20, Economics
“The amount of pressure that goes on for a PhD student, combine that with someone who might be mentally unstable and without help. The ingredients were there for tragedy ... It’s easy to jump to ‘better gun control,’ which I’m still a proponent of, for sure, but I’m less likely to blame that for what happened today. But being able to recognize and identify mental illnesses early is something I think is an ongoing issue.
As this didn’t personally affect me or anyone I know, it’s a little bit easier to move on with my life and just jump back into the normal swing of things. I’d rather have someone throwing information at me than to just sit there with my thoughts.”
Crystal, 24, Political Sciences
“Better access to mental health care seems like it could have prevented what happened today ... Should more people be bringing guns to school under concealed carry? Of course not. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
Shit doesn’t happen like this elsewhere in the world.”
Pauline, 21, Engineering
“I think this could’ve been prevented with stricter gun laws and more of an awareness of how students are holding up mentally. This PhD student probably had a personal vendetta against the professor and some mental health issues that weren’t being treated adequately ... Everyone in the department is just sad, students and faculty alike."
Oswaldo, 20, Psychobiology
“I wouldn’t be okay with concealed carry on campus. That wouldn’t have helped at all ... I was shocked that it happened here because this is such a safe neighborhood, but I guess this could happen pretty much anywhere.”
Justin, 22, Geophysics
“I was in the building across from the engineering building when it happened. We got the first alert and thought it was just another drill, but after about 5 minutes, it hit us and we realized it was the real thing, and then we started locking down.
I don’t personally think you can prevent such an instance. The guy wanted to kill someone, and it was targeted. But if the person was able to talk in a safe space, maybe he could’ve talked to the professor to clear the air, who knows … Most of the time I feel safe on campus but now I might feel a bit nervous because I now know that anything can happen any time, anywhere. I guess I got lucky this time around.”