It is that time of year when young people are packing up their gear to head back to college. Making a list and checking it twice, so to speak:
Sheets, towels, pillowcases? Check.
Coffee pot, hot plate, microwave? Check
Radio, television, laptop computer? Check
Deodorant, shampoo, gun, hairbrush? Check
WAIT A MINUTE!!! Did you just say “gun”? Take a gun to school? Sure … it’s fine … if your school is in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah or Wisconsin, that is. Each of these eight states have recently passed laws making it permissible for students and faculty to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. The most recent, and most controversial of these is Texas, who’s law just went into effect this week.
There are, predictably, two schools of thought here. Simply put, some believe that more guns will make campuses safer and cut down on the number of violent crimes on campus. Others believe that more guns, especially in the hands of students who have not yet reached full emotional maturity, will only lead to more violence, and ultimately deaths. I have read both sides of the issue, and I tend to find a number of holes in the “pro-gun” side. But my opinion is not the one that counts. The ones that count are those of the students, staff and professors who have to spend their days surrounded by gun-toting, hormonal students! Overwhelmingly, professors and students alike are against the idea!
The opinions that count are those who will be affected by such a law, and Let us look at some of the arguments on both sides:
- Students for Concealed Carry, claims that “campus carry” will deter sexual assault on college campuses by allowing women to arm themselves.
- A study based on FBI Uniform Crime Reports and Clery Act data from 2004-2013 found that, contrary to the pro-gun lobby’s claims, the presence of guns on campus did not deter sexual assault. In fact, campuses in Colorado and Utah that were forced to introduce “campus carry” over this 10-year period have shown a marked increase in reports of sexual assault.
- Advocates for allowing students and faculty members with appropriate permits to carry guns on college campuses often argue that the presence of concealed weapons will deter acts of violence. Because the weapons are required by law to be kept concealed, the logic goes, would-be perpetrators of violence will think twice before initiating their violent plans, possibly abandoning them entirely.
- Repeated college campus shootings have shown that attackers often do not expect to survive their rampages. They seem in many cases to anticipate taking their own lives or inflicting as much damage as possible until brought down by law enforcement.
- Advocates of on-campus concealed carry also argue that when a shooting does commence, law-abiding concealed-weapon carriers will be able to intervene and therefore cut short the time and scope of the attacker’s rampage.
- Concealed carry permit holders are not trained in these types of situations and are more likely to hit the innocent than to actually be able to take down the shooter.
The arguments in favour of allowing guns on campus sound good on paper, but the reality is that there are fatal flaws in that line of thinking. More than 300,000 Texas students signed a letter asking state legislators to reject the bill allowing guns in college cafeterias, dorms and classrooms. The majority of professors and staff are against the law, and three professors at the University of Texas have filed lawsuits to overturn the law. So, what are the concerns?
- When there are more guns around, there is more risk.
- It has been suggested professors consider changing their curricula to avoid controversial subjects, which restricts the ability to have a free and open intellectual discourse, candid even with brazen emotions—that shouldn’t be at the cost of the professor having to think in the back of his mind, ‘Alright, where is this going? Is there somebody in my classroom who is carrying a tool whose purpose is to end human life?’
- According to the F.B.I., mass shootings account for less than 2 percent of gun-related deaths, while suicide accounts for roughly 61 percent of gun-related deaths. College students are more likely to use a gun on themselves than to protect themselves during a mass shooting.
I am certain there are more arguments on each side of this coin, but these are the main ones. With the large majority opposed to the law, I ask myself: how and why did this even become a law? The answer, I believe, is the same as the answer to so many other questions: follow the money.
The measure is being hailed as a victory by gun rights advocates and criticized by many students and professors as irresponsible and unnecessary. Those backing it include local and national gun rights groups, including Students for Concealed Carry and the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA); Tea Party activists; and Sheriff Parnell McNamara of McLennan County, which includes Waco. Need I say more?
“An armed society is a safe society, so any time you have gun control, there is far more opportunity to become victims,” said State Representative Jonathan Stickland, a Republican and Tea Party favorite who often does his legislative work at the Capitol wearing his concealed .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol. “The criminals aren’t going to obey the laws. It’s the responsible folks who we should be encouraging to protect themselves in the community they live in.” How often do we have to hear this tired, old argument? Granted, most concealed-carry permit holders are probably responsible and law-abiding, however it will only take a fraction of irresponsible owners for additional fatalities. And remember that we are talking about a group, the majority of whose population falls in the 17-22 age group. Legally adults, but emotionally still very immature.
It seems to me that if a state is going to pass a law that affects a specific group of people, in this case students, professors and staff, then they should consider whether or not the majority of that specific group even wants or sees benefit in the law. Unless, of course, the NRA is giving money to the legislators and governor to get the law passed, in which case, the people affected by the law do not matter, do not have a voice.
College is often referred to as an “institution of higher learning”. Higher learning. In high school, you learned the “what, when, how, where”, but college is where you learn the all-important “why”. You learn to question, to reason, to develop your own ideas and concepts, to test those concepts and, most importantly of all, to think for yourself. That, above all else, is what college is about, and if having a classroom full of students toting guns is going to stifle that, then by the next generation, we will have a generation of lemmings, or “sheeple” as my friend H likes to call them. Think about it.