Guns have no place on college campuses

Daniel Charnoff on Tuesday, Mar. 8th

By Daniel Charnoff, a senior at the University of Southern California, who writes for the Daily Trojan.

The Texas state legislature recently introduced a bill that would allow students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses. With broad support in both the Republican-dominated House and the Senate, the bill is likely to become law soon, and Texan students will then be able to bring their hidden guns to class.

Supporters of the Texas measure, especially the advocacy group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, are quick to point out that the bill does not allow anyone who does not already have a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring a gun to campus. The bill ensures Texans have “the same right to self-defense on college campuses as they do elsewhere in Texas,” according to the group’s website.

The group and other supporters note that colleges generally lack adequate protection against shootings, that rules against carrying guns onto campus are unlikely to stop anyone with intent to kill from doing so and that the Second Amendment gives everyone the right to protect themselves with firearms.

These are all solid points, but they are underwhelming relative to the weighty proposal being pushed by their proponents.

It is true rules will not deter a crazy person from bringing a gun to campus and shooting, and it is also true there is a small chance someone else, if allowed, could be armed and able to  potentially stop a disaster.

College campuses, however, are places of learning and trust. Guns should simply not be permitted to intrude on the positive environment that so many colleges  seek to create. I certainly would not be happy with the knowledge that a classmate is carrying a gun, even if he is licensed to have it.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and especially in light of the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, the movement to liberalize gun regulations has gained new momentum based on the argument that more armed citizens could have prevented these tragedies or ended them sooner.

No matter how popular it is, though, this argument is a logical fallacy. More guns possibly could have prevented the Virginia Tech or Tucson shootings, but they might also would lead to new acts of violence that otherwise would not have happened.

Defenders of gun rights often respond to this line of thought by claiming the stringent requirements for gun permits mean only those interested in self-defense will be able to purchase them legally. Even if guns were outlawed, or at least made more difficult to buy, they argue, criminals would continue to find ways to arm themselves, leaving innocent people defenseless.

This logic does not hold. Both Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, and Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson shooter, purchased their guns legally. The response to these events cannot be to make it even easier to buy and carry guns.

Although the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own a gun, the original Constitution also defined a slave as three-fifths of a person and allowed only white, property-owning males to vote. The Constitution as originally conceived was full of rules that seem archaic today; the whole concept of amendments was designed to allow the law to change with the times.

The Second Amendment was conceived in the context of a colonial revolution that owed much of its success to militia forces. In the revolutionary era, when militaries were not only seen as potential oppressors of their own people, the Constitution aimed to secure citizens’ ability to resist their government with force if it became necessary.

Today, when our military spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually on fighter jets and cruise missiles, this entire rationale is an anachronism. It has been replaced in the public debate by the misguided idea, pushed aggressively by the National Rifle Association, that more liberal gun laws will reduce violence by allowing innocents to defend themselves.

The idea is manifested in the legality of semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States and the ability of people like Loughner to purchase guns from a store. Soon that list will include the legality of concealed weapons on some states’ college campuses, to the detriment of the students, universities and ultimately, the nation.

Daniel is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in International Relations-Global Business with a minor in History. Originally from Rockville, MD, he has focused his research on economic development in Latin America and the developmental impact of major sporting events. Daniel has been writing opinions for The Daily Trojan for two years; his column, Through the Static, covers US and international politics and runs every Friday.

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