Photo by Sean Madden
A new Texas law allowing college students to carry concealed guns is part of a dangerous national trend.
Texas has just joined Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin on the list of states authorizing concealed handguns for students over the age of 21. Twenty-three other states give their universities the leeway to decide whether to allow guns.
There has been no major demand on college campuses from students who want to bring guns to school. Instead, pro-gun laws have been foisted on colleges and universities that don’t want them. Why? Because of the power of the gun lobby.
But students don’t desire firearms. A 2013 poll published in the Journal of American College Health found that 78 percent of students at 15 Midwestern colleges and universities rejected guns on their campuses. Almost 80 percent of students said they would not feel safe if faculty, students and visitors carried concealed weapons on campus, and 66 percent said they did not feel that carrying a gun would make them less likely to be threatened by others. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities and more than 420 colleges and universities in 42 states have joined the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus to fight pro-gun laws.
And they are right. Guns do not belong on campuses any more than they belong at schools or in places of worship or in hospitals. College campuses are supposed to be sites of learning, lively debate, quiet contemplation and study.
While there have been mass shootings on campuses, that does not mean we need to have armed individuals scattered among us. It has yet to be proven that such individuals are an effective deterrent. When there are armed students on campuses, it actually increases the risk of innocents being killed in shootouts. And in the short time that Utah, the state that started this trend, has allowed guns on campus, there is no conclusive evidence that guns have reduced campus crime.
We don’t need vigilantes. We have professional law enforcement, which sometimes has problems, but is still accountable to us.
As powerful as the gun lobby is, this year so far has not been a complete triumph for the gun rights movement. It lost a battle to get the Florida Legislature to approve a law allowing guns on campuses. And even though Texas passed its gun law, some pro-gun groups saw the law as a defeat because legislators amended it to permit university presidents to set limits on the buildings into which students can bring guns.
Let’s hope that the defeat in Florida and the amendment to the Texas law are just the beginning of a pushback against the gun lobby’s excesses. The last thing we need is more armed students on college campuses.
Starita Smith, Ph.D., is a writer and sociologist who lives in Texas. She can be reached email@example.com.