Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Problem With Packin'

Ahhhh, Texas. Turns out their legislature is considering allowing students over 21 to carry concealed guns on campus. Supporters say that there's good reason for this manifestly ridiculous idea, of course, citing the tragedy at Virginia Tech almost two years ago and, I suppose, the fact that there weren't enough armed students to make that massacre a fair gunfight. According to State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), the proposed bill would make everybody safer, since faculty and students are just "sitting ducks" if someone enters the classroom and starts shooting. I don't know how large the classrooms you teach in are, but in the roughly 25' x 25' classrooms where I teach, it's hard for me to imagine that more guns in that limited space makes me safer.

Over at Edge of the American West, Dana has written a very fine letter to the Texas Legislature explaining the many and varied things that are wrong with this idea. She points out that, first, it's unlikely that allowing concealed weapons on campus by registered gun-owners would actually serve as the "deterrent" that the Texas Legislature thinks it would be. It's safe to assume that the kinds of young people who have decided to shoot up their classrooms did not stop to rationally consider whether or not there would be other gun-wielding students in the class first and, even if they did, statistics on gun-violence in this country already show that "knowing there might be other people with guns out there" does very little to deter people intent on using theirs from doing so. But secondly, and more importantly, there's the larger public safety issue. School massacres are very rare events-- even more rare in colleges and universities-- so the question ought to be whether the threat to saftey posed by these sorts of events is greater or lesser than the threat to safety posed by more gun-wielding students in the general population. Dana writes:

Okay. So suppose anyone could have a gun! Given enough guns to ensure adequate mass-murder-coverage, we are surely going to have secondary problems, even if we suppose all of the gun owners are perfectly responsible. (That’s a huge spot.) College dorms and apartments are not the most secure locations; are all of their friends and roommates responsible? Never drunk and stupid? Never depressed over a girlfriend or boyfriend leaving? Never angry over a grade or a rejection or a slight? Never dealing drugs? The likely scenario is not a handsome senior bravely facing down the mass murderer (who threatens his delicate girlfriend with a leer…), but a drunken frat boy shooting himself in the leg, or a student murdering his ex-girlfriend and then himself, or an accidental death due to too much alcohol and too little common sense.

And, of course, you don’t get to assume that you’re the hero in the drama. You might be Jack Bauer. You might be the Plucky Extra Who Failed To Get the Safety Off.

I think it's obvious that these potential threats are greater and more real than the possibility of a Virginia-Tech-repeat. It saddens me greatly that we have to worry about horrific events like that happening, but given the levels of gun-violence in this country, I'm not sure that I have to worry about that happening any more while I'm at work than I do when I'm at the grocery store, or the bank, or the post office, or just standing on the corner. We don't need MORE guns on campus, we need NO guns on campus.

1 comment:

christophresh said...

It seems pretty transparent that this 'solution', like so many others, is just about relieving mass anxiety. Looked at more closely, the 'solution' should make one more anxious, but then, anxiety occurs *right now*, so we treat it in the short-term.
This is big component of why we went to Iraq- it wasn't just 'bad intelligence': America wanted war before the 'facts' were presented to it; America was scared-anxious.
Scared and angry, plus guns? Not the best idea, but a very common 'solution'.