Legislators in Arizona, Florida and Texas are proposing a law that would allow community college and university instructors to arm themselves with concealed weapons.
Currently, only Utah allows concealed weapons on college campuses and they are banned in 24 other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But in searching for solutions to gun violence on campuses, adding more guns to the equation is not the answer.
Admittedly, sitting in class, there are days where I have looked around and realized that if someone wanted to pull a gun out of their backpack and open fire in the classroom, there would be nowhere to run or hide. Generally, there is only one exit, and with some 30 people in the room, we aren’t all going to make it the door.
And as I play that scenario in my mind, I suppose it would be a hero’s tale if the professor pulled out his Glock 22, fired back and saved us all.
I realize the fear of being shot in class is an irrational one, but it’s hard not to at least consider the possibility.
In the past three weeks, two students were shot at a high school in Gardena, California, a police officer was shot outside of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California and 22-year old, recent community college student Jared Lee Loughner killed 6 people and injured 13 others in Tucson, Arizona.
To bring the focus specifically to college campuses, a report published by The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence late last year listed nearly 30 shootings on community college and university campuses since September 2006.
But the idea of outfitting professors with concealed weapons is not the way to address the problem.
The masterminds behind the most infamous of these kinds of rampages, like Virgnia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho, Columbine attackers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and most recently Loughner, all spent weeks, even months, planning these massacres.
Being such planners they would likely anticipate the instructor in the classroom could have a gun, so wouldn’t they just aim for the teachers first? In fact, arming teachers could make them more likely targets.
And teaching at a college doesn’t make you immune to the mental illnesses that can lead people to wreak such havoc or that somehow having a doctorate precludes you from becoming a killer.
A good example of this happened last year, when neuroscientist and biology professor Amy Bishop, who after not receiving tenure at the University of Alabama, shot six of her colleagues on campus, killing three of them.
In all of these states’ proposed laws, it would be optional for the professor to carry a concealed weapon. And since university campuses tend to find themselves leaning to the left politically, I wonder how many professors would even want to sign up for this.
These legislators are missing the point. Instead of adding more guns, we need to focus on preventing these tragedies from happening at all by becoming more adept at recognizing the warning signs of mental illness.
The Columbine shooters, Cho and Loughner all demonstrated ample warning signs they were mentally ill. Many students and teachers who knew them reported before and after their attacks they considered them safety threats.
If we want to do more to ensure our safety, we need to educate, not arm ourselves. We need to know the warning signs, do more to assist those who demonstrate a strong interest in violence and demand more severe consequences for those who will not comply.