FACEOFF : Keep guns off campus

Click the link to read the other “Faceoff” article – “Allow guns on campus”  by Christopher Hoffman

In response to the Sandy Hook school shooting, the National Rifles Association is sticking by its guns — both figuratively and literally. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s executive vice president.

Well, I like to think myself as a good woman, armed with the power of research. And I believe that the NRA needs to be stopped. The only thing that faculty members should have concealed is their future exam questions, not dangerous weapons.

The overwhelming majority of colleges agree. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 21 states, including Florida, ban concealed weapons on college campuses and properties, while 23 states allow individual campuses to set their own policies. As a result, only about 25 of America’s over four thousand colleges and universities allow concealed weapons.

NSU’s official weapons policy “prohibits the possession and control of weapons, firearms, and dangerous devices.” The policy applies to all students, faculty, and staff — along with any visitors to campus. Its stated purpose is to “ensure a safe and secure University environment.”

One of the things I value most about college is the open exchange of ideas. Most of my professors are more than just OK with students expressing their opinions; they actively encourage passionate discussions on controversial topics. Same goes with the staff of programs, events and services outside of the classroom. But, as Students for Gun Free Schools, a non-profit organization puts it, “the introduction of handguns on our campuses would inhibit this dialogue by creating fear of possible retaliation.”

No matter how “good” the professor or staff member may seem, the possibility of he or she being armed would essentially shoot down such comfort levels. Personally, if I knew that the professors and staff whom I interact with daily may be armed, I would be highly hesitant to express a controversial opinion, such as the one I’m writing about in this very article.

“A good guy with a gun” is far from synonymous with “a man or woman who knows how to use their weapon effectively.” The 48 states, including Florida, that allow concealed handguns do not require carriers to have any formal law enforcement training. In contrast, the law enforcement officials who currently protect our nation’s schools must demonstrate discretion in using lethal force, long before they’re placed on duty.

And school shootings are unlikely to provide concealed carriers an easy shot at becoming the hero who swiftly defeats the enemy. Recent shootings have occurred in chaotic settings — usually crowded classrooms, filled with panicked students fleeing for their lives. It would be exceptionally difficult for a faculty or staff member to shoot a moving suspect without injuring innocent students. Even law enforcement officials rarely hit their targets when firing at other human beings. One 2006 study found that among U.S. police departments, officers hit their targets only about  20% of the time in the last three decades.

Furthermore, shooters likely wouldn’t be deterred by the presence of concealed carry permit holders, as many don’t plan to leave the massacre alive. Most America campus shootings in recent years, including Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, were murder-suicides. A campus that allows concealed handguns might actually be more attractive to a shooter, as it would provide the opportunity for shootouts and an increased death count from crossfires.

Fortunately, the second amendment has its limits. In January 2011, after a visitor to George Mason University claimed that the public school’s anti-firearms policy violated his constitutional rights, the Virginia Supreme Court said that “unlike a public street or park, a university traditionally has not been open to the general public, but instead is an institute of higher learning that is devoted to its mission of public education. … Moreover, parents who send their children to a university have a reasonable expectation that the university will maintain a campus free of foreseeable harm.”

As a 2000 study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded, “The safest policy to limit potential violence is to prohibit students and faculty from keeping handguns on campus and allow trained law enforcement officers to provide for campus security.”

Arming so-called “good” guys — no matter how seemingly responsible, trained and moral — is not the solution. As NSU states in its anti-weapon’s policy, “Weapons are potential safety hazards, threaten to interfere with the teaching and learning process, and are incompatible with the objective of preventing violence.”

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