Few scenarios are more terrifying than that of an active shooter on campus. Sadly, events like these are not just an intangible fear, but a reality in modern society. For this reason, McGill took it upon itself to educate students on how to survive an active shooter scenario with a controversial new video. The university is now encouraging faculty to show students the 12 minute video, which consists of a dramatic reenactment of a campus shooting and a briefing on the necessary steps to survive.
Some students, and members of society at large, were taken aback by the graphic content of the video and complained that it was excessive. However, despite its relatively graphic and intense nature, the video is an effective precaution due to its informative review of the steps to surviving an active shooter scenario and its ability to capture the audience’s attention.
Since 2013, there have been 195 school shootings in the United States. A statistic like this is as shocking as it is horrifying, and drives home the necessity of preparation. While Canada may not be as plagued by gun violence as the United States, it exists here as well, and cannot be taken lightly. Many remember the Dawson College Shooting in Montreal 10 years ago and the Polytechnique Massacre in 1989. The most recent tragedy was the school shooting just this year in La Loche, Saskatchewan.
What is perhaps most controversial is the decision to release the video around the 10th anniversary of the Dawson College Shooting—an action viewed by some as insensitive to victims of the tragedy. However, as Canadians remember and memorialize the shooting, it is important to look for methods to minimize harm should such a tragedy happen again. The 10th anniversary of the Dawson College Shooting provides a window to open up dialogues on the issue of gun violence. While no amount of training or videos can prevent a shooter on campus, the measures taken by McGill can help to ensure that in case of such a scenario, students are prepared, informed, and capable of protecting their lives. The country can heal from the Dawson shooting, but it should also learn from it.
The video released by McGill is intense, but for this reason it succeeds in capturing students’ attention and keeping it throughout. Despite what may be said about the video, a less graphic or more mundane version would not have been able to communicate its message as effectively. Those used to routine fire drills and airplane safety demonstrations tend to zone out during emergency preparation warnings, and because of this they can lose their effectiveness. While McGill could have easily created a simple presentation or a purely informative video that reviewed the steps to survive an active shooter, it is unlikely that any would listen. While intense, the video is not overly graphic: It refrains from showing deaths on-screen, and does not use any blood or gore. In doing so, the video is able to drive home the danger of the topic, and emphasize the importance of being prepared while refraining from being over the top.
Beyond simply grabbing students’ attention, the video does exactly what it was meant to—prepare students for how to survive a shooting. Throughout the video, students are presented with the steps to follow in a clear and precise manner. The steps are repeated numerous times and summarized at the end. It makes sure that everyone watching can remember what to do in the unlikely event of a shooting here at McGill. The best way to survive any dangerous situation is to prepare and know exactly the steps to follow, and this video helps students do just that. Surely the video will stay in students’ minds, and if necessary, can be a critical component in their saving lives.
The video serves both as a way to help students stay safe in the event of a shooting, and as a method to remember Dawson College—as well as all other school shootings. Speaking about these tragedies, and about the issue of gun violence in general, is not easy. It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and at times even frightening, but as such an important issue speaking openly and candidly about it is absolutely vital. Due to the unfortunate reality of school shootings, McGill’s active shooter video was an important step in preparing for the worst.