131 Views

Guns on campus: worth a shot?

The loosening of gun laws across North America has brought students to the streets. Picture: The Plant.

What is your immediate reaction when you hear the words ‘gun’ and ‘US College’ used in the same sentence?

For many of us, I’m sure, it draws up awful stories of the Virginia Tech shooting of April 2007; not the most recent but certainly the most fatal of a series of high-profile shootings that have taken place across North America in recent years. Now Texas, the Lone Star state famous for its adherence to the Second Amendment (often referred to as ‘the right to bear arms’), is considering not just giving public colleges the option to allow concealed carry on campus, but passing legislation forcing them to accept it as a right.

Is this madness? Well, I’m inclined to think so. I’ve seen fights break out between our university students, seen tensions run high during first-year flat parties, seen drunk men and women brawl and fight it out on our campus grounds. When studies show that, at this age, our brains haven’t fully matured, is it really sensible to put guns into our hands? Maybe it’s just the thought of a gunshot going off on our campus that horrifies me so much, but despite growing up in a place that was, the media claimed, saturated with illegal firearms toted by drug-running gangs (with the awful nickname of ‘Gunchester’), it is still a lot scarier for me to imagine Sussex students being legally able to carry guns around with us – to class, in campus accommodation, around town.

Take the situation of a particularly vicious drunken argument between two students in which one or both of them are also carrying a firearm. Can you guarantee that in the heat of the moment and with significant mental impairment and intoxication, one of them won’t pull out their firearm and wound or kill the other? The considerable damage we could inflict with our bare hands is nothing compared to the damage that could result from the pulling of a trigger in the heat of anger. The fact needs to be faced that these things do happen – but American views on guns will always be extremely different to British ones.

Of course, there are two sides to this story. The opinion of the senators who have already signed the legislature (more than half), the Governor of Texas Rick Perry and a number of students is that having licensed, trained people (staff and students) carrying guns will actually increase safety on campus. The Bill’s sponsor, Senator Jeff Wentworth (Republican – San Antonio) described the current situation in words made famous by one student from the University of Texas, who described students as “sitting ducks to crime”.

Others have repeatedly affirmed their belief that, in a situation like that in Virginia in 2007, having people on-scene who had guns could have prevented the situation from escalating, giving people an option other than “huddling under desks and playing dead” – the technique famously used by Virginia shooting survivor Colin Goddard, who was shot 4 times in the hips, shoulder and knee and only survived by doing just that. Derek Titus (Texas A&M University), leader of the Concealed Carry on Campus group at his institution, stated that gun-free zones were “shooting galleries for the mass-murderers” whilst a professor from the University of Texas said that he would take his gun to work with him so that he could help in the event of an incident.

A non-fatal shooting last year at a campus in Texas is thought have acted as a catalyst for the pro-gun lobby. Photo: WSJ.

But the statistics belie the claims that guns would greater help than hinder life on campus. To get a license for concealed carry (CHL), there are 4 prerequisites. Firstly, that you are 21; secondly, that you have no criminal record. The third factor is that you attend 10 hours of training and pay $140; the fourth is that you pass a written exam on gun safety and pass a firing test on a shooting range. As of 2010, the state had just over 460,000 CHL holders.

However, statistics put the shooting accuracy of police teams in America at only 20% when responding to a crisis such as a mass shooting. Can we really expect civilians who have had 10 hours of training and a practical test to do better than those who train regularly as part of their job? More, when responding to a shooting, if there are multiple persons firing, how are the police expected to know who is the shooter and who is the student trying to stop the shooter?

In terms of the number of shootings that have occurred on campuses since 2007, it’s true that there have been 24  incidents in three years, the most recent being in October 2010. However, out of these, 11 were non-fatal (excluding the shooters in two of the incidences, who committed suicide); the perpetrators of three more were not former or current members of staff or students and five occurred in a public place where a CHL holder wouldn’t have been able to intervene. Of those five remaining, then, only two would class as being an act of mass murder rather than being one or two killings relating to a personal dispute – Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007 and DeKalb, Illinois in 2008.

The various presidents of colleges in the state are united in their view, including University of Texas President William Powers, the heads of University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB), University of Texas at El Paso, Texas A&M, and the Alamo Colleges board – many with the backings of their local police chiefs. They have stated, quite simply, that incidences of college shootings, particularly those involving multiple fatalities, are the rarest of rare situations. Friday and Saturday night come every week on campus. If they are given the choice to refuse the right to CHL on their campuses, they will almost certainly do so. But they may not be given the choice, meaning they would have to allow those who wish to carry firearms to classes to do so.

The view that really matters here, however, is the view of those students, like us, who will be potentially affected by this. Multiple protests have been staged in Austin, Texas, about the measure and the debate on-campus is heating up around the topic. Flashes of vicious argument continue between students from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Students for Concealed Carry on Campus – with each side accusing the other of trying to make college campuses less safe.

Comments from graduates and students of Texan universities seem overwhelmingly in the negative concerning this issue. Journalists covering opinions at UTPB, University of Texas, University of Texas-Austin and Texas A&M have reported a majority of students, staff and law enforcement officials coming out against the idea of allowing guns into classrooms. One self-effacing student admitted simply that “we’re not mature enough”, whilst another self-proclaimed “pretty Conservative guy”, who was in favour of gun rights, said that he would not feel comfortable knowing that “the person next to me could have one”.

These are just two of hundreds of quotes from Texan students declaring that they would not feel safer with those who have concealed carry licenses being allowed to have their guns with them in the classroom – be that a professor, a fellow student or a maintenance worker.

Plenty of students in other states, including Virginia, feel similarly and the debate has extended to many campuses in states not currently considering a similar bill, as well as becoming an issue discussed between US nationals from differing states, and between US students and the international student community online.

The legislation is expected to pass, one of many similar bills being proposed across the country. Nine states are currently officially considering legislation, five others have had Senators announce that a Bill will be introduced during their term in office and two, Utah and Colorado, have already passed legislation. In Utah, state colleges have no choice over whether to allow concealed carry on campus; Colorado allows them to choose.

Overall 70 American campuses currently allow their students to carry concealed, all in areas which require a CHL. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus tout the lack of incidents on these campuses since this introduction as proof that the fears of the Brady Campaign and other students are unfounded. But the USA has a total of 4,861 colleges and universities, just under 100 per state. If bills in all 9 states go through, that’s almost 900 additional campuses. It will only take one incident, in one college, involving a CHL holder to completely invalidate Student for Concealed Carry on Campus’ claims – and the more colleges that are forced to allow guns on-site, the more likely it is that a tragedy will occur.

When one does, Senators will hopefully begin the process of dismantling this legislation which has the potential for far more harm than good.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
532 views1
Campus News
532 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
72 views
Arts
72 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
106 views
Arts
106 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
105 views
Arts
105 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
131 views
Arts
131 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
147 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
157 views
Arts
157 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
149 views
Arts
149 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
242 views
Campus News
242 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
115 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
228 views
Arts
228 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
148 views
Arts
148 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
220 views
Artist Focus
220 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
156 views
Interview
156 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
221 views
Arts
221 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
247 views
Arts
247 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
286 views
Arts
286 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
199 views
Artist Focus
199 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
212 views
Books
212 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
265 views
Science
265 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
273 views
News
273 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…