Campus Guns

Not a good idea. State Representative Heath VanNatter thinks carrying a gun on a public university campus is a good idea. He is planning to co-sponsor a bill in the coming Indiana General Assembly that would allow persons with permits to carry concealed weapons on university grounds and in classrooms and laboratories and athletic facilities. He must think this would make campuses safer. Let’s be clear about this. He is not talking about rifles or shotguns. He is talking about handguns: pistols and revolvers. He is talking about guns that can be carried in a pocket or purse and that are easily concealed.

There is much to consider before deciding this is a good idea. This means not just administrators or faculty or campus law enforcement personnel being allowed guns. It means concealed guns in the hands of any student that has a license. In Indiana, this is anyone 18 years old or older that is not a felon. Under current law, there is no requirement for any training whatsoever for people buying any type of gun. If you can put your money on the counter, you can buy a gun. Federal law says you must be 21 to buy from a dealer, but you don’t have to be 21 to make a purchase from an individual. So, in practice, anyone can get a gun.

The student body of Indiana University, Purdue University, and Ball State University is diverse and young. Traditional freshmen are 18 years old. Seniors are 21 or so. Most have little or no experience with firearms. The ones that have experience have it mostly with rifles or shotguns used for hunting; not for shooting people. A percentage of students on campuses are enrolled via student visas and are from countries where firearms in the hands of the public are either uncommon or banned. In short, the student population has almost no exposure to the use of a handgun for killing people.

And, what is the need? Are our campuses so populated with terrorists or the mentally ill that more and more of the general student population needs to be armed. Every one of these campuses has a police force there for the protection of people and property. That is their job; and one that they do well. Disturbances, violence, and shootings are extremely rare on Indiana college campuses. No campus currently allows handguns on its property and all seem to be very safe.

Yes, there have been very rare occasions when a shooting has occurred or when an abduction or rape has happened. The problem is that events happen so fast and so unpredictably that the likelihood of a private citizen with a gun to be able to protect himself or herself with a carried weapon is extremely unlikely; like near zero. People are not trained to react this way with or without a weapon. The environment on campus is not threatening or hostile. Students are not on high alert day in and day out.

The best prevention is to simply be aware of one’s environment and not stray into situations or places that increase the opportunity for bad things to happen. This means don’t decide it is OK to head out solo at 2:00am to get a pizza. Or don’t work at the lab until wee hours of the morning alone. Have companions to travel with at times when common wisdom suggests so. It does not mean go it alone and keep you hand on your gun. Impulsive reaction is simply too easy under such circumstances.

Representative VanNatter needs to rethink this one. Putting handguns into the hands of about anyone on campus is just not wise. It increases, not decreases, the chance for catastrophic unintended consequences on our presently very safe state university campuses. Let each university set its own campus policies. Keep the General Assembly and the NRA out of it.

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About Kent Blacklidge Ph.D.

As part of a newspaper family who owned a 34,000 daily newspaper in the heart of the Midwest, I have a passion for a strong “Fourth Estate”, the press. Without a diligent and assertive free press, the power would be taken from the people. People have the absolute right to know. After earning a degree in Industrial Management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, I spent over 20 years in newspaper management with several as publisher. I am also holder of three graduate science degrees including a Ph.D.. I have a passionate interest in science and the environment. I have little tolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
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