Being from a large city like Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a student at a large and well-known university, I have sometimes wondered how I’ve gotten lucky enough to escape a terrorist attack by domestic or international assailants. This wondering usually turns into anticipation as I know attacks on university campuses will only continue and rise without any type of prison or gun reform.
Despite my constant worrying, the chances of an attack happening where I am have always seemed to be too much of a far-fetched thing to happen to me. That was until I heard about Brian Campbell. Materials to build a bomb and drawings of tunnels under the UW-Madison campus were found in his apartment, leading prosecutors to believe he was planning a significant attack on our campus.
School shootings and attacks seem to have become more common occurrences, causing them to lose the shock factor and become almost normalized. But learning that a man was likely planning to bomb the school you attend and that he had access to the materials to do so is a feeling that shakes you to your core. Suddenly, the possibility of experiencing an attack doesn’t seem so far off.
Dane County Circuit Judge Susan Crawford has the ability to extend Campbell’s sentence to six or 10 years, but even if she does, I don’t think I’ll feel any relief from the ever-present fear of being a target of a bombing or shooting. This lack of relief comes from the fact that the prison industrial complex of the United States does nothing to reintegrate criminals into society or effectively treat mental illnesses, meaning they’re likely to go back to the illegal activities they were imprisoned for. This is exacerbated by laws that make it nearly impossible for a convicted felon to get an adequate and respectable job after they have served time.
I doubt Campbell’s time in prison would take away his desire to inflict harm. And when he gets out and his desire hasn’t ceased, he may go for a gun instead of a homemade bomb. With 56,000 gun retailers around the United States and extremely lax regulations on who can buy a one, people like Campbell have no issue obtaining one. After someone tried to sneak a bomb onto a plane in their shoe, policies were implemented that required all passengers to take their shoes off at airport security. In 2018, there was an average of a school shooting occurring once every 8 school days in the United States and nothing has been done by legislatures in D.C.
The future of today’s children and young adults must be protected, but if nothing is done to prevent violent acts from taking place, we might not even get there. This shouldn’t be such a difficult task, as there are reforms of imprisonment and gun-related issues that are possible without infringing on citizens’ constitutional rights. But the world we live in makes it feel like an impossible task. Instigating any degree of progressive prison or gun reform wouldn’t kill legislatures in D.C., but not allowing any type of reform might just kill us.
Mia Gifford is a sophomore studying political science, with a certificate in Chicanx and Latinx studies. What can be done to make students feel safer on campus? What role should the government play in gun control and prison reform? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.