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Are Campus Gun Bans Irrational?

5 years ago
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The Texas anti-gun crowd -- yes, there is one -- has itself been up in arms in recent weeks because the state legislature wanted to pass a law that would have allowed students on all public college campuses in the state to carry concealed handguns. John Woods, a University of Texas graduate student and former undergrad at Virginia Tech, whose girlfriend was among the victims of the 2007 massacre, led the opposition. His position was this:

"The gun lobby showed its true colors and produced a new generation of activists inclined to doubt the NRA's claims that more guns means greater safety. The NRA could have spent its political capital pushing for improved background checks, but instead it got in a shoot-out with university communities all over Texas.''

A similar debate raged this past year at my school, George Washington University. At issue was whether the university police should be armed with handguns. The administration ultimately decided no.

After the defeat of the Texas bill, Paul Helmke, president of the pro gun-control Brady Campaign, said, "common sense is alive and well in Texas!"

So let me get this straight: I can advocate gun rights for society in general and be perfectly rational, but if I advocate gun rights on college campuses, I lack common sense? Why the disparity? Why the different attitudes? I've looked at this issue front and back, and neither side of the debate can claim ownership to "common sense."

There are, of course, reasonable and well-reasoned arguments for campus gun bans, just as there are reasonable arguments against gun rights in general. But the side that wants to allow students to carry guns on campus has rational arguments, too.

Consider that out of the top five deadliest shootings in U.S. history, two have been at college campuses -- Virginia Tech in 2007 and University of Texas in 1966 -- and one at a public high school -- Columbine in 1999. College campuses, centers of learning and progressivism and a diluted mix of the social/political spectrum, have produced these deranged student killers.

Yet because the gun-control lobby shrieks at even the thought of guns on college campuses (either by students or a university police force), college students have no line of defense against such killers.

Ann Coulter wrote a great article in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings about the relationship between concealed-carry laws and reduced murder rates. Studies have shown such laws have cut murder rates. In her usual, colorful tone, she explains:

"The reason schools are consistently popular targets for mass murderers is precisely because of all the idiotic "Gun-Free School Zone" laws...Needless to say, Virginia Tech is a Gun-Free School Zone - at least until last Monday. The gunman must not have known. Imagine his embarrassment! Perhaps there should be signs."

Why does the gun-control left treat colleges as idealized magical zones of peace and love, somehow detached from reality? Isn't that mentality counterproductive to education at best, and dangerously calming at worst? The argument for allowing guns on campus is no different than the argument for allowing Americans to carry guns down the street; if the occasion arises, citizens want to be able to protect themselves.

Here at G.W., we do have a "campus," in the sense that a sizable piece of downtown Washington, D.C., is owned by the university. But beyond that is the real world. Many of the assaults or robberies committed here are not committed by students, but by men in their late 20s who are not students. Criminals do cross the magical boundary!

The point that gun-control advocates make is that amid the drunken camaraderie of college life, accidents could happen. That, too, is a valid point. But it by no means wins the day in terms of "common sense."

Consider that the shooters at Virginia Tech and Columbine were not drunk. So, I ask, regardless of your opinion on the issue, why is not allowing guns on college campuses necessarily a matter of "common sense?"

The only thing that does make sense about this debate is that it is a debate -- in light of the Virginia Tech shootings -- that we need to have.

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