America has become numb to school shootings. They occur with a harrowing frequency, yet we rarely hear about them in the media unless the carnage is particularly horrible. There have been 142 school shootings in the three years since Sandy Hook; yet only a few of those, such as the recent tragedy at a community college in Oregon, have made the headlines.
In wake of these terrible shootings, some state governments have tightened gun regulations in an effort to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. Meanwhile, other states are loosening gun laws. Texas recently passed a controversial law that expands the rights of gun-owners on college campuses, and as of August 2016, students will be able to carry guns into campus buildings such as dormitories, classrooms and cafeterias.
Only in America would this law be perceived by some as a reasonable and rational solution to the problem of gun violence. While gun-crazed politicians rave about how the law will expand gun-rights and supposedly make campuses safer, many of the students and teachers who actually live and work at these campuses vehemently disagree and are beginning to fear for their safety.
This law is a serious mistake, not least because of the fact-ignoring ideology that underlies it. It is a mistake because it will do nothing to actually make college campuses safer. The logic behind the law is that if more students and teachers are armed on campus, in the case of a shooting they will be able to engage the gunman and thwart the attack.
Instead of working to prevent a gunman from attacking a school in the first place, this law emphasizes an after-the-fact style of intervention to the problem of gun violence on campuses. The law treats the symptoms while pretending the disease doesn’t exist.
Alarmingly, in America, the disease that is gun violence kills upwards of 30,000 people per year, and is better characterized as an epidemic. It is more lethal than terrorism according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in that there were 3,380 deaths from terrorism compared to 406,496 gun deaths between 2001 and 2013.
The cause of the epidemic is evident: incompetent gun regulation enables people who should not have guns to get their hands on them. America has the highest per-capita gun ownership rate in the developed world, and as a consequence, Americans are 20 times as likely to die from gun violence than citizens in other developed countries.
As President Obama noted in wake of the Oregon community college shooting, the United States does not have a monopoly on mental illness, but we do see these sorts of heinous crimes far more frequently than our peer nations. Yes, we do need better mental health care but there is no one solution or approach that will magically solve the problem.
Let’s stop deluding ourselves, because the problem is also tied to lax gun laws. What’s happening in Texas doesn’t help the situation, because the only guns on campuses should be in the holsters of security guards and campus police.
The pro-gun camp loves to criticize gun-free zones, such as college campuses, stating that they invite mass shooters to a place where there will be no guns, at least until police arrive at the scene.
This is a valid concern, which is why the rational solution is to increase the presence of trained-law enforcement officers on campuses. It is senseless to make it easier for college students to access and possess firearms. Out of the thousands of college students in Texas, some of them are bound to be suffering from some sort of mental illness, and it is impossible to predict when a violent outburst may occur.
Another important reason why guns have no place on campuses has been broached by the faculty at the University of Texas, who think that students carrying guns into classrooms is very problematic for an environment of intellectual debate and free speech.
“People don’t want to voice controversial views if somebody is packing a gun next to them who disagrees,” UT Professor Ellen Spiro said, who is leading the campus movement against the law.
Professor Daniel Hamermesh of UT’s economics department recently resigned from his position out of fear for his safety, writing in a letter to the school administration that his “perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has been substantially enhanced by the concealed-carry law.”
It is encouraging that students and faculty in Texas are standing up to this insanity. Thousands of students are planning protests. Maybe the cowardly politicians will hear their cries, but citizens will have to be louder than the gun-lobby that stuffs the pockets of politicians.
Owen Sandercox ’19 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Newtown, Conn. He majors in economics and statistics.