This past Monday morning, students at Harvard University had more than just the stress of finals to deal with.

Harvard University Police were given an unconfirmed tip that explosives were placed in four academic buildings on campus. The primary safety of students and faculty led to the evacuation and search of all the buildings. This investigation lead to not just Harvard University and Cambridge police to investigate but also the involvement of state and federal officials. All buildings were cleared, and no explosives were found. Students were kept updated with messages from Harvard’s website and Facebook and Twitter feeds.

After I heard this story, I was mad. Wait, scratch that: I was furious, for multiple reasons.

I thought to myself, “Is this normal now?”. Are bomb threats going to become a regular thing? We have reached a point where it is actually a possibility to be attacked in our schools and universities. A place that is such a beacon of knowledge like Harvard now isn’t safe from the possibility of attack. The person who called in this threat got their pitiful fifteen minutes of fame, and if it was a student, then they successfully delayed their final exams for a day.

This threat, however, accomplished something far worse. It contributed to a sense of distraction and a feeling of fear among students at educational institutions, and it gave ammo to liberal politicians trying to push their agenda.

This feeling of fear in our schools was displayed in 1999 with the Columbine tragedy. We have had many others since then, including Sandy Hook just over a year ago. In fact, there have been over 60 accounts of student-related and school-related shootings since 1999. This feeling of fear has led to many precautions being taken in our schools, and rightfully so. Harvard’s emergency system was working incredibly well and kept all students informed and safe. \

But there are no precautions a school can take to remedy the feeling of fear a student can have when returning to those halls after an evacuation. I, for one, would hate to have to see the day where I have to walk into my university classroom, take off my shoes, and go through a metal detector just to listen to a lecture. False alarms are never a joke, and it is sad to see that the proverbial “pulling of the red fire alarm” has been replaced with calling in a bomb threat. Very recent events have made the latter far too real for students.

If the changing norms of society or the feelings of fear aren’t enough to deal with during events of tragedy, terrorism, and false alarms, we also see politicians jumping on these events as catalysts to promote new anti-gun legislation, restricting our freedoms as a possible remedy. So many politicians are too topical when it comes to their analysis: they want to take care of the problem by trimming the branches, not attacking the roots.

These acts of tragedy and terror don’t stem from guns, bombs, or the threats themselves. They start from the individual and family level. Many of the acts of violence since Columbine can be attributed at least in part to a lack of morality or virtue in the aggressor. To really stem the tide of violence, we must seek to better train our children on morality, virtue, and respect for others. This should be done where it all starts: the family unit or the local community.

Studies show how negative environments and troubled homes physically shape and change children’s minds. It is no surprise that more of these tragedies have occurred, and have occurred more frequently, as church attendance has decreased nationally: the church is one of America’s most basic traditional sources of moral training. If a person is surrounded by good teaching that reinforces morals and virtues, those values will be reflected in his or her actions and in the community’s standard of conduct. Likewise, a lack of these virtues can be seen in acts of violence, terror, and false alarms like the one seen at Harvard.

Progressives and liberals are not going to be able to legislate their way out of these tragedies. Restricting the tools and appendages to the problems we face in society (such as guns) doesn’t actually solve the problem. It merely takes away those tools from moral Americans who use it protect themselves and because have the right to own such things.

False alarms–and politicians’ tendency to exploit them–are incredibly dangerous, they distract us further and further from what the true solution should be.


Thomas Novelly | Hillsdale College | @TomNovelly