Private colleges and universities recently prevailed, as lawmakers amending a proposed Texas law that would prohibit institutions of higher education from banning the carrying of licensed concealed handguns on campuses. Essentially, the law was proposed so employees, guests, and students over 21 with licenses, could carry weapons in order to defend themselves and others from active shooters such as those who have massacred others at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois.
Proponents cite similar laws in other states and generally safe records of those licensed to carry weapons. In recent cases, supporters argue, students or staffers could have stopped the carnage had they been carrying weapons.
Opponents argue that having guns on campus are more likely to bring about violence that has otherwise been avoided. Trinity's student government has made this case, passing its own resolution and forwarding it to lawmakers. The consensus on our campus is that we don't need this law. With weapons banned from residence halls, as provided in the amended legislation, few students, and only those who are 21 and licensed, would have guns. Most would have to store those in vehicles on campus and the security of vehicles here is not guaranteed. There is probably a greater fear that guns in the wrong hands on campus would be dangerous.
Indeed, mixing guns with a residential campus environment seems like a step backwards in time:
- Becoming a wild west gun-slinging University simply increases chances of the poorly trained or the poorly aimed taking shooting innocent victims.
- A student who is shooting a video, is going for a pen, or is just horsing around could be mistaken as an active shooter.
- The community should be more concerned about accidental shootings when horse-play, guns, and alcohol are mixed together - either on or off campus.
- College students are in a high-stress environment. Permitting handguns, that could be used in weak moments when suicide seems like a good option, is scary as well. (While 3% of our students report seriously considering suicide, 17% say they have thought about it, but wouldn't act on it.) Access and availability of methods to carry out self-harm are variables in suicides.
- Do we want our law enforcement officers deciding whether or not one of our students is the good guy or the bad guy during a reported incident?
- And really, even if we can't guarantee it, don't we want our campuses in this country to be bastions of free-thinking and civil discourse rather than places where students wonder whether or not going too far in an argument could lead to getting shot?
One other primary issue on this topic is whether or not private institutions can determine their own policies. Just as a private University could ban hard liquor or any liquor, shouldn't it be permitted to ban weapons? Those who wish to pack heat in their classes can choose to attend public institutions if this bill passes. Others should have a chance to attend classes in a gun-free environment. Places like Trinity can offer that option.
There is something romantic and heroic about defending ones self or others against a lunatic with a gun. But people can go to the movies for that. On campus? Let's be glad that for now, we can decide what kind of campus environment we support.