Some thoughts on guns in classrooms

[NB: opinion subject to change upon new arguments and evidence]

A few months back, I had a long conversation with some friends about CC (conceal carry) on college campuses, and this is what I distilled from that exchange:

First, get lost with the whole “The Second Amendment is very simple” nonsense. I’m not having this argument, but for over 200 years the second clause was always read with the first, and the people’s right to keep and bear arms did not negate states’ rights to regulate such keeping. That included banning them from university campuses, like Jefferson and Madison did from the University of Virginia in 1824. Case closed, as far as I’m concerned. Unless y’all claim to know more about the Second Amendment than its actual creator, I’ll take the opinion of two former U.S. presidents who basically created this republic over your uninformed opinions. The fact is, history is usually complicated. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be good folk arguing both sides of an issue, it would just be clear as day. That being said, a lot of the anti-gun arguments you hear actually rest on shaky statistical evidence. Except rejecting the Hitler argument, that’s a solid one. As someone who knows a thing or two about Nazi Germany, I think Seitz-Wald is pretty on the money there.

Anyway. Allowing guns on college campuses, in the hands of any but official law-enforcement personnel, will most likely prove a bad idea.

Yet, the actual impact of CC will certainly be less than people say it will be, for several reasons. The reality of the situation is likely to be what this article outlines:

“There is a big difference between allowing all 51,000 students at the University of Texas-Austin to carry handguns in any manner they choose and allowing concealed carry by the approximately 400 who are over the age of 21 and licensed to carry a concealed handgun.”

Which leads me to the following thoughts, for what they’re worth:
  • a) Not many students will actually be able to obtain or will obtain licenses. Do the math.
  • b) Those who are availing themselves of their legal right to carry a concealed firearm are, odds on, not your problem population. You’ll probably never even know they’re carrying, because they will tend to be the responsible kind of student.
  • c) The student who goes out, gets a sawed-off shotgun, and sets foot on campus to wreak mayhem and murder likely won’t care that they need a CC permit.
  • d) The actual deterrent effect of CC on potential terrorist attacks is really impossible to calculate, basically because, much as with gun control activists pointing to “tougher laws = drop in gun-related violence”, you’re left proving a negative. Explaining the supposed motives for why someone doesn’t do something. In argumentation, that’s an argument so weak as to be nonexistent, weaker even than the “appeal to authority.”
  • e) In reality, the ability of a CC student to successfully intervene in an active shooter scenario is very slim, unless the shooter is in the same building, and on the same floor. In other words, if such an incident occurs, God forbid, you’re in luck if you happen to have a CC student in your classroom, AND your classroom is set up so that you can actually defend it. Otherwise, you do what the rest of the world does, you hole up and wait.
  • f) Actually, you do that even IF you have a CC student in your classroom. Because if said student decides they want to be a hero, and goes forth to search for bad guys, you are looking at one of the following scenarios: i.) Student gets cut down by attackers who are on the lookout for armed students, ii.) Student opens fire and kills bystanders, iii.) Student is cut down by law enforcement who, understandably, think student is one of the bad guys, iv.) Student manages to find, engage, and neutralize the bad guys. I’ll leave it to your imagination which is the most likely scenario (hint: it’s not #4).
  • g) It will only take one incident where a CC student accidentally kills bystanders or is killed by law enforcement for the whole conversation about CC to turn again. And that’s when, not if. It will happen at some point.
  • h) Now, I can hear some folks saying that I’m no too concerned about CC because I’m white and I’m male. That is true, and I’m also fairly well trained in various martial arts and combatives, and am apparently physically intimidating. No argument there. But none of that actually impacts any of the points I’ve made above.
  • i) I’ve often wondered why we don’t see a greater push for actual police departments on college campuses. State schools already have them, and even my alma mater, Rice University, has its own police department. In my experience, whatever issues you may have with law enforcement, it makes more sense all around. Interestingly enough, I’ve met a lot of resistance to this idea whenever I mention it. My liberal friends’ opposition to this idea doesn’t surprise me, my conservative friends’ opposition does, sort of.
  • j) A lot of the anti-gun rhetoric I’ve read comes from people who don’t seem to have much knowledge of what it means to live in a part of the world where firearms are necessary and an everyday tool, not a threat to one’s well-being. Having lived for some years in the wilderness in Washington state, I know that firearms keep coyotes and bears away, and also put food on the table. The country-city divide (if that’s what it is) seems to be very strong these days, to the detriment of public discourse on both sides.
  • k) And no, currently I don’t own any firearms, though I do intend to acquire some black powder weapons eventually. ’58 Springfield, probably. Brown Bess too, though those are pricey.  But I do have your standard medieval military historian’s array of swords, shields, etc., which is either intimidating or funny, depending on how you look at it.
  • Finally, I’ve read a lot from professors who worry that passionate debates in their classes might get seriously out of hand if students are carrying weapons. To which I can only say, what on GOD’S GREEN EARTH are you doing in your classes that students would entertain homicidal thoughts toward you or their fellow students?!?!?!?
So, in short, no, I would rather that colleges and universities prohibit firearms to students, and instead invest more in actual law enforcement as I experienced at Rice and in the SUNY system. In my experience, it just makes more sense. There is Founding Father precedent for prohibiting firearms on college campuses, and simplistic readings of the Second Amendment should be disregarded . BUT, concealed carry will almost certainly NOT result in the bloodbath that critics say it will incite, its deterrent effect on potential terrorist attacks cannot be calculated with any certainty, and its actual potential to disrupt an ongoing terrorist attack on schools will be negligible, due to actual tactical factors that anyone who knows about firearms will understand.
In short, life will go on, much as it has for this past age.