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Keep Guns Off Campus

28/02/2011
Elliott Hall, the first college building on ca...

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One of the most disturbing trends I’ve seen in the news over the last week or two is a push by lawmakers in several states to compel colleges and universities to allow students and faculty over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons on campus. Currently, the only individuals allowed to carry firearms on college campus are duly bonded law enforcement officials, either municipal or contracted through the school (campus police). As more and more states consider similar measures I find myself more and more concerned for my friends and relatives currently in college…and for future college students who may find themselves in a quite dangerous situation.

Earlier this month a student was killed and several others injured when a man opened fire at a house party held just off-campus of Youngstown State University. Different reports all indicate that there was some sort of altercation involving the gunmen and others at the house, and the student who was killed was attempting to separate the fighters. While such a situation is possible regardless of the concealed carry policies on campus, the fact that something like this can happen should give anybody who supports this type of legislation cause to stop and consider. What if the next brouhaha at your school’s fraternity house turns into a bloodbath because one of the pissed-off guys just happens to have a 9mm in his jeans?

Robert Spitzer’s article in HuffPo yesterday (linked below) is a well-thought piece that thoroughly explores all of the reasons that putting more guns on campus is just a terrible idea. Among his arguments:

Campus violence is falling, and schools aren’t just sleeping on the job when it comes to campus security. There are other, wiser ways of ensuring the safety of students on campus, as well as to ensure their feeling of safety. I, for example, have a terrible aversion to guns. I can watch them on the television, but if I am within ten feet of a firearm I begin to tense up and the adrenaline begins to flow — it doesn’t matter who is holding it. This is due to certain events in my past, and while I am only one person I can guarantee that there are others like me for whom it would be traumatic to imagine that fellow students and professors are just able to tote around weapons at their pleasure.

Students get stressed and act impulsively. This should be obvious, but given that Spitzer devoted an entire paragraph to it I imagine he feels, as I do, that people tend to forget about this. Simply because students have turned 18, 19, 20, 21, doesn’t mean that they are suddenly no longer adolescents. Additionally, while junior high and high school are also stressful times they don’t last 24/7; students go home and have the opportunity to channel their frustrations into other activities. They also (hopefully) have attentive parents and other family members on hand who can keep an eye out for signs of extraordinary stress and can take steps to help alleviate that before it turns into a nightmare.

In college, though, young adults simultaneously gain constant exposure to different stressors and lose the safety net of a supportive family at their disposal. Even daily phone calls and weekend visits can’t fully ameliorate the kind of pressure that can build up in a college student’s life (as I say from experience), especially if the student is a loner or not involved in a group that can provide a substitution for that support. A self-aware student may recognize feelings of anger and depression and seek help for it (and I fully recommend the Health Services and counseling offices on campus), but what if a student doesn’t know that those services are available or fails to recognize the symptoms of a chronic problem? The only real reason I knew what I was feeling is because I come from a family with a history of depressive disorders, so what about someone who didn’t?

The absolute worst thing you can do in those circumstances is provide them with a gun. Even if the laws will only apply to 21-year-olds, college is little different from the family home in that a kid with a will is going to get what they want — and if the 18-year-old wants a gun, s/he is going to find it. It’s always possible that s/he will go on a rampage against others, of course, the but more likely and in some ways more tragic possibility is that s/he will turn that gun on him/herself. This isn’t to say that a student bent on suicide will be at a loss; as fellow alumni and students from Ohio Wesleyan know, a freshman hung himself on the weekend after his very first weekend of classes in 2009. Still, instead of giving these students yet one more way out, we should be focusing on providing more comprehensive services and making them more accessible to students. If the government really wants to help students, they should get behind those efforts.

For all the pro-gun arguments that allowing students to carry weapons on campus will make them safer, consider that in many states there is no requirement that a concealed carry license applicant undergo any formal training in shooting or gun safety — here, for example, is Ohio’s application. Therefore, one cannot even reasonably assume that the majority of gunholders have had any training whatsoever but can assume that if one of them pulls their gun to “respond to a threat” or for whatever reason, there is an even higher likelihood of collateral damage to innocent bystanders.

In addition, a law such as the ones proposed would add a new and more dangerous element to any investigation of supposed wrongdoing — campus security would have to not only verify the presence of any weapons, but also the presence of required licenses to carry said weapons. Dealing with unruly students is difficult enough without the added pressure of worrying whether the student accused of an alcohol violation (or worse) is also packing heat. Finally, campus police would have to be equipped with firearms as well which for some schools would mean thousands of dollars in training for officers who are not bonded, such as the Public Safety officers at OWU.

Long story short, allowing concealed carry on college campuses is a costly undertaking with the potential for far too many disastrous effects, and even the strongest argument in favor isn’t enough to make this a reasonable path for lawmakers to take. I can only hope that Ohio’s legislature doesn’t trip down the same lane of idiocy.

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One comment

  1. […] Keep Guns Off Campus (shanshantastic.wordpress.com) […]



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