Monday, July 14, 2008

Guns on campus? No, thank you.

There are more and more news stories about efforts to change state laws and allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Currently, Utah is the only state that specifically allows concealed weapons at public universities but bills to allow concealed handguns on campus have been introduced in 17 states. Thankfully, they have failed in 15 of these states (and have not been resolved in the remaining two).

Who are these undergraduates who harbor cowboy fantasies of triumphing in the big OK Corral shootout? They worry about being in campus “gun free zones” and grump about how they need their gun in order to protect themselves and feel safe. In reality, the guns these boys carry will never be used to stop a mass-shooting, chances are they will never be used at all. And if they are used, statistics show that they will almost certainly be used to harm the gun owner or someone he knows, not some faceless criminal.

There is no evidence that concealed weapons laws have made states safer. In fact, the evidence points the other way. Where there are more guns, there are more homicides. And as for the fantasy that one of these pistol packing pupils will stop another Virginia Tech from happening - adding more guns to a shooting incident will lead to more chaos, more chance for innocent people to be hit and greater confusion for law enforcement in sorting out who the criminal is. Highly trained police officers have a hard enough time hitting their targets in a gunfight, barely trained students would be a danger to everyone.

More guns on campus would undoubtedly lead to more gun suicides on campus. An in-depth study by Allan Schwartz in the May 2006 Journal of American College Health found that the suicide rate for college students has declined dramatically in the last 50 years, a direct result of “firearms having been effectively banned from campuses.”

Guns are not conducive for an atmosphere of open learning, most teachers and students would feel intimidated, not safer, knowing there was someone in the classroom with a concealed weapon. The presence of a gun may escalate an incident, especially when alcohol is involved. A September 2002 study in the Journal of American College Health stated: "Given that alcohol is widely thought to contribute to violent behavior generally and to a majority of college student suicides, rapes, and other violent crimes, we find it quite troubling that almost two thirds of students with guns at college report binge drinking." The study also concluded that "gun-owning colleges students are more likely to drink frequently and excessively and, when inebriated, to engage in activities that put themselves and others at risk, such as driving under the influence, vandalizing property, and having unprotected sex."

It really is simple – more guns will not make people safer.