The Michigan State University Shooting, “How Many More?” 

By: Ruby Garff

2023 continues to be a year plagued by gun violence. It seems that every time we look at our phones or turn on the news, we see reports of a new devastating attack. We’ve reached an inevitable place of desensitization where these killings, these shootings, have become almost expected within the modern landscape of this country.

On February 13th at 8:18 PM EST, a 911 call was made reporting an active shooter on Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing, Michigan. The gunman opened fire in MSU’s Berkey Hall, a building on campus home to the College of Social Science. There, he killed two students, Arielle Anderson, a 19-year-old sophomore, and 20-year-old Alexandria Verner who was a junior. The gunman critically injured several other students before leaving the building and heading toward the Student Union where he murdered 19-year-old Brian Fraser and injured 5 more students. As soon as the first report came in, a shelter-in-place order was issued to those on MSU’s campus and in the surrounding communities. The University then sent out emails to students warning them of the threat and instructing them to either evacuate or shelter in place as authorities searched for the shooter. The suspect was later seen on camera around 11 pm. The photos captured of the subject spread, and ultimately a caller tip led authorities to the shooter around 11:35 pm. He was identified as 43-year-old Anthony McRae, who fatally shot himself before police could apprehend him. McRae had no known ties to the University. His death leaves East Lansing with more questions than answers as his motives are still unknown. 

All three of the victims grew up in suburbs surrounding Detroit. Anderson was incredibly passionate and planned on becoming a doctor as soon as possible after finishing school; Verner was studying biology and anthropology and was an active leader and 3-sport athlete throughout high school and college; and Fraser was the president of the Michigan Beta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta, studying business. Each student leaves behind a grieving family and community. This tragedy has forced parents to bury their children. Each life was taken senselessly and far too soon. We will never get the privilege of seeing the impact these students would have made on their community and the world around them; we’ll never get to see what would come from the passion that drove them to Michigan State. 

The other students at Michigan are left reeling, and the community is coming together in the wake of the shooting. Within the heart of campus rests a large boulder called “The Rock,” which serves as a sort of billboard students can paint for special events. The Rock has become an outlet for students to vent various sentiments relating to the tragedy and the subject of gun violence. On February 13th, the rock was painted black with the words “how many more?” drawn over in red. Later, this was painted over and replaced with “Allow us to defend ourselves & carry on campus,” and students covered up this message the same day. Then came “To those we lost / to those healing” with Alexandria, Arielle, and Brian’s names included. As of now, the rock has been painted over fully in white, with the Michigan State Spartan logo and the message “Always a Spartan. Brian. Arielle. Alexandria.” This comes after MSU asked a local Detroit artist Anthony Lee to take the job. The four repaintings of The Rock are an all too applicable reflection of the debates that are taking place all over the country. 

Everybody agrees that the MSU shooting is an atrocity. It should have never happened. 

Three lives were lost and the lives of many more were affected and changed forever. Students don’t feel safe on campus. The trauma gained from being present while an active shooter is in the place where you live, study, see friends, and are supposed to feel at home will not be something the students are getting over anytime soon. 

Certain kids are now facing the unacceptable reality of being forced to live through their second school shooting, like Emma Riddle who is not only an MSU student but was attending Oxford High School just 15 months ago when 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley murdered 4 students. Riddle’s father has described what this feels like to him and his daughter, the way that it’s earth-shattering for something like this to happen again, but also how his daughter is almost horrifyingly used to it. Nobody should have to know exactly how to react after a gunman attacks their school, nobody should have to live through their second shooting in less than two years, and yet that is the reality for Emma Riddle. Emma’s father, Matt Riddle has said, “Every now and then, you get a little mad, you get a little angry, and you’re like, ‘Why are we doing this again?’” It’s not just Emma. She was only one of twenty Oxford survivors attending MSU. These kids that have done nothing but continue to be diligent students, picking themselves up and finding a way to move on after experiencing one of the most difficult things someone can go through, are being failed by something. Whether that’s our government, our laws, the people in charge, or our gun culture. It’s so incredibly clear that something has to change, for we can’t keep going like this. 

Students in America should feel safe in their schools. End of story. Full stop!

There is no reason anyone should be scared to attend school or simply receive an education because at any given moment there’s a chance someone pulls out a gun. 

We live in a blur now. Memorials and vigils, trauma and grief, moving on and getting better. Students like Emma live in this blur. Every time I hear about a mass shooting, my first thought is always again. Then I start to wonder when the inevitable next incident will be. Each one of these mass shootings leaves entire families devastated, peoples’ whole worlds come crumbling down on top of them, and yet, because of their frequency, it’s hard to even give them a second glance. I know people who didn’t know the MSU shooting had occurred until I told them days after. They weren’t surprised, nor shocked as these tragedies have become far too accepted in our everyday lives. 

I’m of the opinion that the only way to prevent the deaths of more citizens, children, and students is stricter gun control. MSU gunman Anthony McRae was charged in 2019 with possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle, after his original charge of carrying a concealed weapon was dropped. He reportedly had mental health issues. Someone like McRae should never have been allowed to own a gun. While it’s unclear whether or not the gun he used during the MSU shooting was obtained legally or not, it’s safe to say that in a lot of cases firearms used in mass shootings are obtained legally. People with severe mental health issues and any previous gun offense should not be allowed to ever own a gun. In my opinion, a more extensive licensing system needs to be put in place. Everyone should be properly trained on how to use a gun and to keep it safe before they own one. Gun safes should be required. The main argument against the effectiveness of these measures in preventing mass shootings is that criminals will find a way to obtain firearms anyway, and thus these measures will not be effective. May I propose the fact that if there are stricter requirements and more intensive steps to take before gun ownership, there will be fewer guns? If there are fewer guns, it’s harder for anyone to obtain them, even criminals. I’m not trying to take all the guns away. Having a gun to defend yourself at least makes sense to me, and I’m not trying to take that away from anyone–as long as you keep it in a gun safe and actually know how to use it. At the very very least, owning a gun should be harder. The process of obtaining a gun should be tedious, slow, and thorough. Coming to own something capable of murder in a matter of seconds should never be easy.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, or what your stance is on gun control and the second amendment, I think there is one thing we can all agree on: something needs to change. We cannot keep living in this blur, in this state of desensitization. How many more students need to die within their own schools? How many more days must students go to school scared for their lives? How many more parents will be forced to bury their own children? I’ve grown admittedly angry at the state of stagnation our country has reached on the gun control issue. Mass shootings are not a problem in any other developed nation. It’s time for a change. Too many people have died for us to not learn anything from it. We all need to finally accept this lesson: gun control is the only way to make this endless stream of tragedy finally stop.

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