Professors discuss: Guns on campus

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Professors discuss: Guns on campus

Photo credit: Joelena Despard

Photo credit: Joelena Despard

Photo credit: Joelena Despard

Photo credit: Joelena Despard

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Two professors’ from Loyola Marymount University and Arkansas State University share their perspectives on carrying guns on college campuses.

We Don’t Need More Guns on Campus

Guns are in the news again, as they have been so frequently. The country is sharply divided between those who believe that more guns reduce crime and those who believe that guns are making violence worse. One important aspect of this controversy is the question of allowing concealed weapons on college campuses.

Despite the high-profile mass shootings that have gripped the nation, those who believe that guns are the solution, not the problem, seem to have the upper hand in terms of legislation. Twenty-three states have banned concealed weapons while only 10 states require campuses to allow them. However, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the trend is toward requiring campuses to allow them.

This pro-concealed carry trend is aided by the high level of concern about sexual assault on campus. For example, Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore notoriously pushed her campus carry bill by arguing: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”

There are a lot of disputed facts when it comes to guns and gun control, but even with all the uncertainty, it seems likely that allowing guns on campus is a terrible idea, especially as a way to prevent sexual assault. It is well known that many, if not most, sexual assaults on campus involve heavy consumption of alcohol. Putting guns in the hands of drunken students in emotionally volatile situations is likely to backfire. And there is the question of suicide, which is a rising problem at colleges. Both alcohol consumption and gun ownership are positively correlated with suicide. We already know that students drink a lot so adding guns to the mix is likely to make the suicide problem even worse.

The mass shootings we’ve all been seeing are terrible things. But we should not panic and we should not implement “solutions” that will make things worse rather than better.

Article written by Evan Gerstmann, Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University

Lessons from Campus Carry in Texas and Arkansas

In 2016, it became legal for people with concealed carry permits to bring guns onto public college campuses in Texas. The rhetoric surrounding the new law was heated. Opponents argued that guns on campus would lead to impulsive acts of violence by armed students (for some reason there was less concern about the prospect of armed faculty flying off the handle). Faculty worried that it would be impossible to have meaningful debate in a setting where guns were present. Some expressed concerns that the presence of legally-armed students might complicate law enforcement’s response to a shooting.

Proponents argued that the presence, or even just the possibility of the presence, of armed students and faculty would act as a deterrent to mass shootings and other more commonplace types of violence.

In 2017, Arkansas, where I live and teach, passed similar legislation following a very similar debate.

So how has this experiment turned out? Have what would have once been routine classroom debates resulted in gunplay? Have classroom discussions become muted because no one wanted to provoke the ire of armed students? Has there been a surge of violence on college campuses in Texas and Arkansas? Nope. In fact the whole thing has been a more or less a nonevent.

What about the proponents’ side of the debate? There too, it’s almost impossible to say what the effect of the new laws has been. I know of no instance when a concealed carrier intervened to stop a shooting on a college campus in Texas or Arkansas. Nor have armed citizens complicated the response to mass shootings. The presence of armed citizens on campus may have deterred potential mass shooters, but that is the sort of negative claim that is virtually impossible to prove.

Violent crime is at historically low levels in the U.S. Mass shootings are horrifying, but incredibly rare events. They are so rare that it is exceedingly difficult to make evidence-based policy about them. When people tell you that some new gun law is sure to make you safer or is certain to result in mass carnage, think back to the Texas and Arkansas examples and remember that both sides made confident claims that have not been borne out.

Article written by Erik Gilbert, Professor of History at Arkansas State University