Get Your Gun

Jason Davis / New University

In light of the recent murder of six in Tucson, Ariz., two bills are being reintroduced to state legislature that could forever change college security. Both sponsored by Republican Jack Harper, House Bill 2001 (HB 2001) and House Bill 2014 (HB 2014), if passed, would allow faculty and students to carry guns on campus.

Harper already pre-filed both bills at the end of last December before the mass shooting at Tucson. According to Harper, everybody but criminals would be safer.

Arizona’s lawmakers were previously rethinking policies on mental health and preparing for the debate over gun laws. More specifically, they were focusing on making their already rather lax laws even more so by lifting the numerous weapons restrictions at college campuses around the state. The attempted assassination only prompted these bills to garner even more nationwide attention.

HB 2001 calls for the allowance of faculty members, who have a proper state-issued permit, to carry concealed weapons with them on campus. The permit requires some training and a background check.

This bill was already presented last February, but it never made it to the Senate. Despite these previous efforts, Harper is confident that it will pass this time. He is a strong advocate for allowing faculty members the opportunity and resources to defend themselves in case of emergencies.

HB 2014 goes even further to let anybody with a valid permit, including students, to be armed on campus.

UCI history professor Jon Wiener, however, takes an anti-gun stance. In a blog for The Nation, he questions, “Should all faculty members be armed?”

Adjuncts, assistant professors, women, minorities and gays, he sarcastically writes, either feel “underrepresented” or are under a lot of stress because of the tenure system. Therefore, they are not stable and guns must be kept out of their hands.

Wiener wittingly concludes, “The lesson is clear: guns on campus should be restricted to the hands of senior professors – the old white men. They know the importance of preserving order.”

His satirical blog has become an online hit, with many other websites linking to it. Some prompted angry readers, who did not catch on to Wiener’s sarcastic tone, but most were able to read between the lines and realize that his message is meant to be spread through funny and humorous techniques.

On a more serious note, though, history professor Sharon Block agrees.

“Personally, having just come from spending two years in Australia, a country with far stricter gun control and (not coincidentally) far less gun violence, I think more serious gun control in the U.S. could help avoid such massacres,” Block said.

Many similar bills have been stalled because they were met with stiff opposition, mainly from state university police chiefs. Along with many opponents of the bills, they believe that once officers enter the scene and find multiple people with guns, they must try and ascertain who the attacker is within seconds upon arriving. This would add to the overall chaos and be inefficient in containing the situation.

From there, they still must determine whether the faculty and students were really victims that were engaged in self-defense.

They also cannot imagine what might happen if a lecture hall is engaged in cross-fire. Innocent people in the middle could be harmed and raise the number of fatalities.

Besides, opponents say, new students and faculty members alike would constantly be in fear as both are not trained to properly handle weapons.

Even if they are, guns are still extremely dangerous and sensitive. Just recently in Southern California, a high school student’s gun accidentally went off in his backpack, resulting in one of the wounded being listed in critical condition.

Also newly revealed, one of the witnesses of the Tucson tragedy was armed and even had his finger on the trigger before deciding against shooting whom he presumed to be the killer. He later found out that he had mistaken the assailant and would have actually shot another witness had he not thought twice about it.

As political science professor Mark Petracca wrote in an e-mail, allowing people on campus to be armed is not a good idea because, “probably like anyone else, someone who carries a gun as a matter of course might, when under stress or duress, be prepared to use it.”

Still, many advocates, including Harper, see a greater chance for the bills to pass because the legislature now has more conservative lawmakers than before. The National Rifle Association has also come on board to back the bill, although it would make no comment about the gun control debate in the aftermath of the devastation in Tucson.

The basis behind both bills is the belief that someone who holds a grudge will go into a classroom on campus and start shooting. Harper believes that the current ban on weapons ignores the criminal, while leaving both the teacher and student unprotected and defenseless, as if they were “sitting ducks.”

With the passage of the bills, Harper feels that the harm an assailant intends to do is minimized if a law-abiding citizen is allowed to carry a concealed weapon.

Should the bills pass, it would not mark the first time the state lifted gun restrictions over the past couple years. In 2009, bar patrons were allowed to carry weapons, with one catch: they can’t drink.

Just last year, Arizona permitted residents to be armed, even without a permit. 2010 was the same year the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Arizona only two points out of a possible 100, which is one of the state’s lowest ratings ever. Now that Arizona’s colleges might be prohibited from banning guns on campuses, even these two meager points are in jeopardy.