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14 College Women Get Real About Their Safety After the Orlando Shooting

On June 12 2016, Omar Mateen (a supposed ally to ISIS) gunned down 49 people and injured 53 more at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In the weeks before the shooting, he was able to legally purchase a long gun and Glock pistol, despite the fact that he had previously been under investigation for sympathizing with a suicide bomber.

Multiple leaders have denounced the shooting as a hate crime, and noted that this is the nation’s worst terrorist attack since 9/11. It is also the deadliest incident of violence the LGBTQ+ community has ever experienced. Many people have raised their concern about gun control in relation to their personal safety in this country.

We asked 14 college women about how safe they actually feel in the U.S after the Orlando shooting. Read their responses below.


“I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community and knowing that the Orlando shooting was a hate crime specifically against us––and that it has spurred other hate crimes against the community–– terrifies me. June is pride month, and I am afraid to go to pride. I do not see any purpose of our guns––they are literally used to kill people and that is it. I think the only way I will truly feel safe is with gun laws and gun control, because if you think about it, people have been shot at schools, clubs, movie theaters, concerts and even in their own homes. There is literally no place that you can be safe from guns.”

Bee, Class of 2019

“There are so many terrible people, and you never know where they will be.”

-Elise, Boston University Class of 2016

“As a Canadian, we have very different views on gun control and our laws reflect that. I lived three hours away from Orlando as a child for four years, so the shooting definitely hit close to home––but even before the Orlando shooting, I wouldn’t feel safe living in the US. In Canada I don’t have to worry about the guy next to me in Walmart having a gun, or going to class and being afraid of a mass shooting or spending a night out and have to think about being shot. I would never want to live somewhere where that is a real and persistent threat.”

-Addie, Wilfrid Laurier University Class of 2018

“I like to think I live in a well-educated community that knows better than to discriminate and target mass groups due to the wrongdoings of a few bad individuals. As a South Asian student, it’s definitely hard to think that people could potentially view me as something I’m not, but I can’t live every day of my life like I’m in danger. If I did, I would get nothing done. I’m here to make a difference in the world, so I’m going to keep living my life the way I planned to.”

-Shana, University of Connecticut Class of 2018

RELATED: Here’s How People Are Reacting to the Orlando Mass Shooting

“As a woman of color it is hard for me to say that ‘yes, I feel safe.’ I really don’t feel safe in the U.S. Coming from Canada, I was thinking of doing my graduate degree in the U.S. but now, with the frequency of violence, how comfortable can I be in my own campus or going out at night? I feel like the U.S. right now is on the same level as Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001, which is very formidable.”

-Lilly, University of Victoria Class of 2017

“As a Latina woman, I’ve never felt safe in places where I feel judged or where my race, my gender and/or sexual orientation puts me in danger just because ‘someone doesn’t like it.’ Tolerance, acceptance and appreciation needs to be taught in every household, every school and every college and workplace if we want to succeed as humans.”

-Ashley, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Class of 2019

“Since the Orlando shooting, I’ve felt no different than before the massacre occurred. Our country was never ‘safe’ and we’ve always had to be on the lookout. I live in San Francisco, so being in a big city you always have the thought of a massacre or attack happening at any given time. We can’t live in fear, we must stay strong and go about our lives.”

-Cici, City College of San Francisco Class of 2018

“I’m not a commonly targeted minority, but I also tend to avoid places that would otherwise make people feel unsafe. I usually feel safe as long as I’m in public, and I’m out during daytime. However, I don’t know if I would feel that safe if I was Muslim, LGBTQ+ or any member of a targeted minority.”

Kristin, UNC-Chapel Hill Class of 2016

RELATED: LGBTQ+ Community is the Biggest Target for Hate Crimes

“The shooting in Orlando has sparked an enormous outrage of heart wrenching grief, anger, disbelief and political opposition. A man––no––a murderer, killed over 50 people in a public area and we’re expected to feel safe? No. We’re never and will never be fully safe no matter what laws, bills or politics want us to believe. But we have to go on. We have to live our lives. We have to face it head on. We can’t allow the fear that people instill cripple us. It’s that simple, and yet so complicated and terrifying. It can happen anywhere, but we can’t let it shake us––and that may be the most difficult part to deal with.”

-Lauren, Marymount University Class of 2016

“Since the Orlando shooting I’ve found myself feeling on edge, not necessarily scared on a regular basis, but definitely distanced from the usual assumption of ‘that wouldn’t happen here.’ So many people were needlessly killed and hurt for frequenting a place which would normally be lively and fun, and a place where people my age would go to let loose. When I go to parties now, I can’t help but feel nervous, because I think about how so many people packed into one place would never expect someone to walk in and do something as violent as Omar Mateen did. After the Orlando shooting, the president of my college sent out a campus wide letter to address what had happened, and it hit the core of what made the Orlando shooting so terrifying: It was brutal, senseless and wrong––and it happened to normal people. So, no, I don’t really feel safe. There’s an uncomfortable feeling, a question which simmers in the back of my mind of ‘what’s going to happen next?’ I’m terrified this is a premonition of more acts of hate to come, and I fervently hope it’s not.”

-Gail, Franklin and Marshall College Class of 2019

“As a member of the LGBTQ+ Community and since the shooting happened in a gay club (which was supposed to be a safe space) it does make me feel a little unsafe. It brings up the idea that it could’ve been me and that there are no safe spaces anymore.”

-Jessica, Montclair State University Class of 2017

RELATED: How to Help After the Mass Shooting in Orlando

“I don’t feel entirely unsafe, but I do find myself thinking about possible situations when I’m in crowded public areas of what I would do if something bad happened. I used to just go about my daily life without even thinking twice, but I’ve become subconsciously more aware of my surroundings because of what has happened.”

-Reilly, University of South Carolina Class of 2018

“Up until this year I was never afraid living in the U.S. The most frightening tragedy had been 9/11, and still I was never worried when flying on a plane. However, even before the Orlando shooting, I have felt unsafe. For the past year or so I have found myself more paranoid when people are walking behind me, or in crowded areas. The number of bombings and shootings has me on edge when I’m in crowds. I make a point to be extra cautious, both in terms of keeping my eye on my surroundings and making plans for all sorts of ‘what-if’ situations.”

-Rebecca, University of Maryland Class of 2017

“I do feel safe in this country, but it is more out of my ‘ignorance is bliss’ mindset. By that I mean that it is nearly impossible to prevent every single attack ever made. Bad people exist in this world and we can’t always protect ourselves against them. It is also unrealistic to live in fear, and life wouldn’t really be ‘life’ if we were constantly afraid to live. The best we can do is to spread love, show compassion, be there in times of grief (especially in the case of Orlando) and prove that no amount of hate can overtake our innate right to living our lives to the fullest. Evil people want you to live in fear. You only lose when you submit to that.”

-Bridget UMass Amherst Class of 2017

Gina was formerly the Beauty & Culture Editor at Her Campus, where she oversaw content and strategy for the site's key verticals. She was also the person behind @HerCampusBeauty, and all those other glowy selfies you faved. She got her start in digital media as a Campus Correspondent at HC Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she graduated in 2017 with degrees in English and Theater. Now, Gina is an LA-based writer and editor, and you can regularly find her wearing a face mask in bed and scrolling through TikTok.
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