Dear Mr. McCuistion,
In your contribution to the U.S. News article “Pro-con: Should college campuses restrict concealed weapons,” you state that the Texas legislation SB11, allowing for carrying of handguns on public college campuses, is beneficial to both students and faculty due to an added element of safety in the classroom. However, due to a lack of necessity of firearms and the influence of stress on students in the classroom, the bill proves to have no positive impact and, if anything, will do more harm than good.
Following the Columbine high school shooting in 1999, considered by many to be the worst high school shooting in U.S. history, conversations concerning gun control have been sparked across the country with each subsequent incident. In the debates over how to protect oneself from a shooter and how to prevent these shootings from happening, many states have taken it upon themselves to decide whether or not it is safe (or smart) for those on college campuses to be allowed to carry firearms in their classes or anywhere on campus. Texas legislator Brian Birdwell brought this issue to light in 2015 by proposing the Senate Bill 11 (SB11) in 2015, which would allow for concealed and licensed carry on Texas public universities and in classrooms. According to Morgan Smith of The Texas Tribune, the bill was passed with a 20-11 vote – all of the Democrats of the house opposing the bill – and signed by governor Greg Abbott on July 1st, 2016. Beginning that August, the bill was put in-place on public Texas campuses like UT Austin and Texas State University, resulting in a large public outcry. While the threat of a school shooting or danger on campus is nothing to scoff at, the notion that students and faculty being armed is beneficial or makes campuses any safer simply does not have enough evidence.
In the past – and at UT, specifically – the presence of students with their own firearms has shown no benefits. As stated by James Alan Fox of USA Today, put into effect on August 1st, 2016, the bill’s first day also marked the 50 year anniversary of the infamous UT Tower Shooting of 1966, in which Charles Whitman opened fire from the top of the UT Tower on the observation deck, resulting in the deaths of 14 people and leaving 31 others wounded. In his violent 96 minutes atop the tower, many witnesses on campus took their guns out and shot at the tower, hoping to end the murderer’s spree. While they shot with good intentions, the bullets only hit the building itself, as Whitman was protected from his perch 300ft up, and they ricocheted to where officers and law enforcement were stationed and trying to end the massacre. Although these onlookers had good intentions, their efforts didn’t do much to aid law enforcement – the ones actually trained to deal with issues this severe in situations of high stress. While the ability to carry firearms on campus had been legal for over twenty years, according to UT Austin’s website, the ability to take them into actual classrooms wasn’t fulfilled until SN11 was passed. What help is a 21 year old’s aim going to be if there were someone shooting recklessly into a 500-student lecture hall?
The passing of this bill relied simply on fear, as between 2000 and 2015, there were only 15 active shootings on college campuses in the U.S. – none of them occurring in Texas, as mentioned by USA Today. The possibility that someone will need a gun to protect themselves and their peers on campus is slim. Even if there was the need for protection – that’s what campus police and security are there for. In a moment of crisis, when a police officer has to put a stop to a shoot-out or any form of violent activity, how are they going to be able to tell whether it’s the man in the doorway or the student in the back of the class still wearing their pajamas that’s posing a threat? Not only is the bill unnecessary, but it adds another thing to think about in a moment of crisis for law enforcement. In the event of a shooting, every second matters.
Mixing firearms, young adults, and a high-stress-environment together is not the formula for the safe use of a gun – that’s just common sense. While classrooms are a source of knowledge and personal and intellectual growth, they also can prove to be a space filled with controversy and differing opinions. Every class has its controversies in what’s taught – from different opinions on the Civil War in history class to different beliefs in methods of evolution and the creating of life in biology: there’s plenty of space for students to openly discuss their beliefs and have thoughtful conversations surrounding their different beliefs and morals. Although most of the conversations remain civil, sometimes they can turn into heated arguments – especially when they’re covering personal topics. When a student’s discussion with their peer turns into an argument, who’s to say one student won’t use the handgun fastened to their belt as a threat? While there is no guarantee how a conversation like this would end, there is one way to make it a lot safer: not allowing guns in the classroom.
The idea that everyone who owns a gun is going to use it on people is simply untrue – but if you aren’t planning on pulling it out during class or while walking around, why carry it? Not only is the reasoning for carrying a fun based solely on fear, but it potentially adds complication to moments of emergency. While the threat of gun violence of campuses other the past few decades has become increasingly real, the fact is that simply allowing fewer guns on campus will result in fewer issues.
Thank you for your time.
Fox, James Alan. “Concealed carry on campus is a bad idea: James Alan Fox.” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/07/31/concealed-carry-campus-bad-idea-james-fox/87706728/.
“Pro-con: Should college campuses restrict concealed weapons?” Dallas News, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2015/10/23/pro-con-should-college-campuses-restrict-concealed-weapons.
Smith, Morgan. “Campus Carry Gets Final Approval in Texas Senate.” Texas Tribune, 30 May 2015, http://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/30/campus-carry-gets-final-approval-texas-senate/.
“An Update on Campus Carry Rules and Implementation.” University of Texas at Austin, campuscarry.utexas.edu/.