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29 Nov, 2018 02:19

US college arms students with hockey pucks against school shooters

US college arms students with hockey pucks against school shooters

A Michigan university has repurposed the humble hockey puck as an unlikely self-defense device, as faculty attempts to prepare students for the possibility that they may encounter an active shooter on campus.

Faculty and students at Oakland University are arming themselves with hockey pucks to protect against school shooters, thanks to a “spur-of-the-moment” idea the school’s Police Chief Mark Gordon had earlier this year while training students in surviving an active shooter situation. While many on campus are skeptical, some have embraced the concept as a symbol that they are not entirely defenseless against gun violence.

Hockey pucks are heavy enough to hurt on impact, but small enough to carry in backpacks, and law enforcement doesn’t consider them weapons. These three factors make them ideal for campus self-defense, Gordon insists, particularly because Oakland prohibits weapons on campus. The police chief knows firsthand the kind of damage pucks can do, having been hit on the head with one in the past. “It caused a fair amount of damage to me,” he said.

While he admits “it was not a well-thought-out strategy,” Gordon hopes the mere presence of the pucks will “empower” students and faculty to do something to defend themselves instead of freezing in place should they be trapped in a room with a shooter. “Anything that you can throw that’s heavy and will cause damage, cause injury is the bottom line of what you’re trying to do,” he told the Detroit Free Press.

Oakland holds active shooter training sessions several times a year, teaching students and faculty to run first, hide second, and only fight back if the first two options are impossible. The hockey puck should be “an absolute last strategy,” Gordon explained.

The puck has improbably caught on as a symbol among faculty. Tom Discenna, president of the American Association of University Professors, opted to purchase and hand out $2,500 worth of pucks printed with the union’s logo after taking part in one of Gordon’s training sessions in June. The pucks include a number recipients can enter on the school’s website to donate money for the purchase of new locks for classroom doors – a more orthodox campus security measure. So far, they’ve raised $5,000 for new inside locks for one building, while the student government has matched their donations.

Twitter wasn’t sure whether to be amused or appalled.

Active-shooter drills are no longer unusual in US universities following tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 people dead along with the shooter in 2007. New York’s Stony Brook University and Ohio’s Adelphi University are just two other schools that offer students regular training in surviving such an event. Oakland isn’t the only school to come up with a “creative” response, either: Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain School District outfitted classrooms with five-gallon buckets of rocks to throw at potential assailants earlier this year.

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