“Guns On Campus” Shouldn't Be About The Best Shots: It Should Be About the Worst Ones

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In the “Guns on Campus” debate — back for a third consecutive session at a pink dome near you — many of the voices calling for more guns on campus tend to be those with extensive experience around firearms. Veterans, experienced marksmen, and long-time gun owners decry the ban on guns in campus buildings as an “intrusion” on their rights.

But should campus carry be passed and signed in to law, it's not only those experienced gun owners who would be able to carry guns — anyone 21 years of age and older who can meet some very basic requirements would be able to carry a gun into a campus building.

Here in Texas, a CHL applicant must complete a scant 10 to 15 hours of training and pass the written and range test with a score of 70% or better. Texas has broad reciprocity with other states, meaning that Texas will honor concealed handful licenses from other states, including states such as Utah, which does not require a range test for a CHL and issues permits to non-residents. It's also possible to carry a concealed weapon in Texas with a CCW permit from Virginia. The Virginia permit only costs $39.95 and doesn't even require the licensee to ever touch a gun.

The recent Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee hearing on the “Guns on Campus” legislation reminded me again about one of my biggest qualms about this issue — the law doesn't just arm the good shots, it arms the bad ones, too.

More below the jump.The Star-Telegram reported on the testimony of a professor from the University of North Texas who has dealt with students who have “smashed electronic equipment” or “threatened to come to his home.” The professor, Tom Sovik, wants a gun to defend himself in the classroom as he says he can everywhere else.

Has he thought about the inverse situation, in which it is the violent student who is now legally able to bring a gun into a professor's office? What of his colleagues who either choose not to or cannot handle using a gun in their own self defense?

Professor Sovik aside, there are plenty of academics who do not want or feel that they need a gun who would still be potentially susceptible to intimidation from students in office hours. The answer to the violent students invoked by Sovik isn't for him to shoot them first — it's for strong campus safety officers, and more support services and mental health resources for students who resort to violence.

I recognize that it's possible that military veterans with extensive training might be able to handle a crisis situation, hostages, multiple live shooters — the very situations that cause law enforcement officers to oppose the law. But I question whether the same is true for any person who can qualify for a CHL — because it simply isn't. That's not what the State of Texas will require for a person to be able to carry a gun into a college classroom.  

The law as written does not specify that only veterans with honorable discharges and crisis situation training can carry guns on campus. It does not specify that licensed peace officers with extensive training who happen to be enrolled in higher education can carry guns on campus.

It says that any 21-year-old with a clean record who takes 10-15 hours of training and gets the equivalent of a C-minus on a range test can carry a loaded gun into a classroom.

I do not want C-minus shooters in my classroom. I don't want the A or the B shooters in there. I don't want guns in my classroom, period.

Let's be honest, State of Texas: y'all aren't funding your graduate students to a level that allows many programs to remain competitive with peer institutions. And now you want to increase the odds that we get shot, or force us to even wonder if we need to get a gun to defend ourselves? What's next, mandatory gun training for university faculty and staff?

Campus and municipal public safety officers have testified against this bill for many reasons.

One is because when they respond to an active shooter situation, it's clear that the guy with the gun is the “bad guy.” When there are multiple students with weapons drawn — let alone firing it becomes a lot less clear who the target is. The training required of potential undergraduate CHL holders does not address this concern.

Right now, I'm extremely confident that any altercations with my students — no matter how tired, stressed out, sleep-deprived, or intoxicated they may be — will not end in bloodshed. I know that any debate my students get into will be waged with words, not bullets.

Thus, it boggles my mind that given the overwhelming testimony and evidence that opposes Concealed Carry on Campus — from police chiefs to campus administrators, from the Virginia Tech Review Panel to Sandy Hook survivors — that any reasonable, sentient human being would support this policy.

I oppose this bill, as a graduate student and a University of Texas employee.

My opinion is shared by the overwhelming number of campus student, faculty, and staff associations and organizations that have passed resolutions against this rule change year after year after year. Yet while students, faculty, and staff overwhelmingly oppose the law, apparently we have no “rights” to exercise local control over our own workplaces and institutions of learning — because a few really outstanding marksmen want to make sure that they — and a result, the really bad shots — have the right to bring their guns into my classroom.

So here is my very serious question for all of the people advocating for this law: how do you make absolutely sure that every person who is licensed to carry a gun into my classroom has the skills to handle a situation with multiple active shooters, hostages, or scenarios in which it's not clear who the “bad guy” is — especially when their back is to the door when the shooter walks in the room?


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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