EDITORIAL – Threat of anxiety outweighs school-shooting threat

City Times Editorial Board

Law enforcement is seriously undermining our generation if information regarding a possible school shooting is only being put out on a need-to-know basis in fear of a widespread panic frenzy.

Most of us were in grade school when tragedy struck Columbine High School, and even more fresh in our minds is the shooting at Virginia Tech almost exactly one year ago. Instead of informing students right away, VT campus police decided to spare students the stress of worrying about an armed gunman on campus and take matters into their own hands. We all know what happened next.

So when San Diego police got word that Thai Thanh Dang, released from a Sacramento county jail at the end of March, allegedly planned to shoot up a San Diego college, why was it that students here at City weren’t made aware of any threat until April 7, when the City College Police posted the threat on their Web site? By the way, who regularly checks out the campus police Web site for . well for anything?

In an article in University of California San Diego’s student newspaper, The Guardian, Lt. Sylvester Washington, of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, said, “The information [the Sheriff’s Department] sent to the colleges was supposed to be intelligence, but it wasn’t supposed to be disseminated to the news like this, because it causes anxiety.”

College students lie somewhere in the crossroads of the Information Age and a school-shooting epoch, and it’s true – hearing that someone wants to come to San Diego to be the next school shooter is scary – but that the information would be withheld because of possible anxiety is just demeaning.

Parking causes anxiety. Exams, the price of textbooks, and the freshman 15 – those cause anxiety among college students. Telling us that we are under possible threat from a 22-year-old male (probably armed and dangerous) who looks like every fifth person on campus – that would be an appropriate preventative measure to help adults protect themselves, at least by deciding to stay home for a day or two.

We can rest easy knowing that the Sacramento County Inmate Information Web site reports that Dang is back in custody, as of April 7, charged with “possession of assault weapon.” Dang is ineligible for bail and the type of arrest is described as “remand rearrest,” meaning he was sent back from whence he came.

What we shouldn’t rest easy about is the fact that Dang is back in custody charged with possession of an assault weapon after reportedly threatening to shoot up one of San Diego’s colleges!

Well that clears that up – we should have considered him armed and dangerous because he was armed and dangerous. Just one thing – we couldn’t have considered him anything because no one told us to. And it could have easily been too late by April 6, when KUSI reported on the matter, or even April 7, when the Union-Tribune and our campus police ran the warning.

While it’s great that no lesson was learned the hard way, some lesson needs to be taken from this and it is this: College students worry on a regular basis about finals and the beach booze ban this summer, but in the back of our minds we worry about things like al-Queda, and the fact that at any time some wacko can open fire on us during Poli-Sci 101.

Let us weed out the hype, but if there are good, hard facts about a direct threat to us – those we should know about before it is too late.