By Jeanine Erikat
On June 1, 2015 Republican governor Greg Abbott signed into action the “campus carry” law. Effective in August 2016, this law will allow licensed college students over the age of 21 to carry a concealed handgun throughout public university campuses in Texas. This law was promoted on the platform that giving the students the ability to carry their own concealed handgun on campus, will promote student safety.
I can understand that students today may feel unsafe on campus, as 153 school shootings have occurred across the US since 2013. However, I cannot understand how more guns on college campuses would ensure the safety of students.
It’s important to delve into the ramifications if a shooter is triggered or aggravated by seeing a student with a gun. A trigger is loosely defined as a stimulus that triggers trauma, anxiety, overwhelming emotions or even a psychiatric condition. Because triggers vary based on the individual, allowing guns on college campuses increases the chances of aggravating a shooter, leading to more casualties. In such cases, it’s better to try to talk down the shooter than to have a gun on scene to potentially trigger him.
This strategy was employed during the attempted shooting at an elementary school near Atlanta, Georgia in August 2013. A crisis was averted when the school bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, talked down shooter Michael Brandon Hill. Tuff treated the gunman gently, sharing her own troubles with him and comforting him, effectively dissuading him from carrying out his plan of action. Tuff’s act of humanity puts school shootings in a new light, though additional cases have also been avoided, using this tactic.
In addition, the increase of shootings in recent years does not justify the presence of concealed handguns on college campuses. We are not helpless in this situation nor are we victims, and we must find a more effective and safe way to prevent school shootings in the future.
A tactic was proposed in June when the online journal ‘Frontiers in Psychiatry’ published an article regarding a personality profiling technique that could be used to identify school shooters. The assessment works by identifying words that are representative of a certain personality trait. These words can be then cross-referenced to make a diagnostic impression of an individual’s personality traits. After comparing texts written by 6 shooters to over 6,000 male subjects, researchers found that the shooters’ texts had high ‘Narcissistic’, ‘Humiliated’, and ‘Revengeful Personality’ dimensions. While this tactic wasn’t created to find one specific shooter, it can be used to significantly reduce the suspects in a possible shooting. Regardless, it is surely more effective in ensuring student safety than allowing them to be armed.
Permitting guns on campus threatens student safety by increasing the plausibility of gun accidents. Research published in 2009 by the ‘American Journal of Public Health’ reported that individuals in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. Thus, even during acts of self-defense, the gun in question has the potential to do more harm than good. This is in part due to the easy accessibility of guns. To acquire a gun license in Texas, minimal information is needed for the online application. Applicants only need to submit a valid identification card, information regarding psychiatric, drug, alcohol or criminal history, and a valid credit card.
This new law jeopardizes not only student safety, but the safety of faculty members as well. In an interview, University of Texas, Austin Professor Daniel Hamermesh revealed that he is quitting early because of the new gun law.
Hamermesh maintains that this new law questions professor safety in their office hours. He explained, “A student comes in, is upset about a grade — which happens all the time — and they pull a gun suddenly…I teach 500 at a pop. And in that big of a group, there’s a good chance of one of them complaining enough, being angry enough and having a gun to possibly cause me harm.”
Likewise, this law is opposed by University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven who told CNN, “I’ve spent my whole life around guns. I grew up in Texas hunting. I spent 37 years in the military. I like guns, but I just don’t think having them on campus is the right place.”
Students also echo these sentiments. In a poll conducted in 2013, 79% of students from 15 different colleges across the nation said they wouldn’t feel safe if concealed guns were allowed onto their college campuses. Heavy opposition can be seen at the scene of the crime, as students at the University of Texas at Austin are planning to protest this law the beginning of the next academic year, when the law will be enforced, with their campaign “Cocks Not Glocks.” In this protest, thousands of students will gather carrying dildos, which under the university rules are prohibited due to obscene visual image. Clearly, a dildo, which can do no physical harm, is more threatening to the well-being of students and faculty than a firearm. Groundbreaking logic, UT Austin.
Guns on college campuses are not the answer to preventing college shootings. As college students, we are here to expand our knowledge, meet new people, network, and work towards our futures. Guns on campus would lead to the downfall of our academic experience. Learning can’t be possible if our safety is jeopardized by our peers carrying firearms. We are a group of intelligent people who can find other solutions to make our students and faculty feel safe. Let’s hope, for the safety of all, that our governors can see the truth of the matter and prohibit guns on college campuses.
Jeanine Erikat is a first-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at email@example.com.