[Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET] A lone gunman infiltrated and opened fire on a Florida State University library packed with students cramming for exams after midnight Thursday, raising questions once again about what the United States can do to prevent school shootings.
Law enforcement officials have identified the shooter as Myron May. Mr. May reportedly graduated from Florida State before attending Texas University's law school.
FSU police officials say they confronted a man on the stairs of the Strozier Library and killed him after he drew a handgun and fired at police. Inside, officers found three injured students, two of whom were taken to the hospital. No names had been released as of 7:21 a.m. Thursday, and police have not yet released a possible motive for the attack.
The attack on what one former student called “the heart” of the Tallahassee, Fla., campus – a research-focused institution with some 40,000 students – shocked and saddened those who were there when the shooter opened fire. Some students barricaded themselves with chairs and tables.
“We heard the gun shots and then … the entire first floor just seemed to go into chaos,” graduate student Alexandra Lauren told CNN. “I’m just more heartbroken than anything else … FSU means a lot to me.”
A seeming litany of school shootings continues to raise questions around the US about how best to protect students and whether college students should be able to carry weapons on campus for self-defense. Most of the 4,400 US colleges and universities currently ban firearms on campus.
The November general election suggested that a country that has increasingly embraced liberalized gun and self-defense laws in the last two decades may be pulling back. Colorado, Maryland, Connecticut, and New York have passed new gun control laws since 2012. This fall, voters in Washington State approved a referendum to add background checks to private gun sales to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” Gun rights proponents have claimed that such laws could ultimately lead to gun confiscation.
Gun control groups have documented dozens of school-related shootings since the December 2012 shooting of 20 elementary school students and six school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Most recently, a student at Indiana State University shot a fellow student in a residence hall in September; one person was killed and two others wounded by a gunman at a small Christian college in Seattle in June; and four students were killed by a 15-year-old gunman at a Seattle-area high school in October.
Gun rights advocates say the shootings underscore the importance of allowing students to defend themselves against random acts of school violence.
“We shall see what we shall see, but the place where people are most desperately in need of a defensive weapon are those places where self-defense is forbidden,” writes the blogger Stranger on the Extrano’s Alley gun rights blog.
Critics say allowing guns into school spaces will only lead to more shootings in places where young Americans are supposed to feel safe.
"We are too frequently and too often waking up to incidences like this around the country," Tallahassee mayor-elect Andrew Gillum said at the news conference.
Thursday’s library shooting is the second act of gun violence in the span of a few months to affect the campus. In July, FSU law professor Dan Markel was killed at his home with a gun. That case remains unsolved.