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The argument regarding guns on campus has been a hot topic ever since the widely covered tragedies at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University. Since those and other shootings have taken place, some states have decided to make provisions to gun carrying laws on campuses allowing students and faculty to arm themselves. However, not all states have been able to pass changes on such a polarizing issue, and are met by heavy opposition from anti-gun groups.
The debate is one with deeply rooted emotions for some, as family members and friends have been directly affected by campus violence. No matter which side of the debate you stand on, one has to admit it is interesting to look at how past events may have been altered with different gun laws, as well as the possible risks and prevention that provisions could cause in the future. On April 16, 2007, a single gunman killed 32 people and injured 17 others before taking his own life on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Armed with a backpack full of ammunition, Seung-Hui Cho went from classroom to classroom murdering students and teachers before the campus police finally broke down the barricade to the building he was in, and he turned the gun on himself. Although there is not a way to be sure of how something so random could have been prevented, there is also no doubt in the minds of some that it could have been stopped sooner and more innocent lives saved had there been permission to carrying handguns into the classroom.
The response in regards to gun laws following the events in Virginia included “politicians in at least 25 states have considered new laws or policies designed to protect college students” (Lewis 1) within three months of the attacks. The Virginia Tech Massacre opened old wounds and created new ones, all while sparking nationwide interest and debate on how campuses deal with gun restrictions. In 2008, Arizona Senator Karen S.
Johnson, following a shooting on the campus of Northern Illinois University, said that “the police, [Johnson] said, respond too slowly to such incidents and, beside, who better than the people staring down the barrel to take action? ” (Archibold 1) Had there been a student or professor armed during the VTech massacre, there is a chance that the gunman could have been taken down much sooner, saving maybe even dozens of lives and preventing multiple injuries sustained during the attacks.
Further supporting from 2008 were the figures on violent crimes on college campuses for the year. “There were 3,287 rapes, 60 killings, 5,026 assaults and 4,562 robberies across college campuses just in 2008…experts tell us campus crime is underreported. ” (Burnett 1) Those numbers support the thinking that many self defense advocates use in believing they are at a higher risk of attack knowing that most likely someone walking around a college campus will not be armed.
Also following the shooting at VTech, the “Students for Concealed Carry” was formed. Within 6 months of forming the group had chapters at 60 colleges across the nation, and today now has over 350 chapters in 46 states. In 2010 a Colorado court ruled in favor of the SCC claiming there were inconsistencies between laws enforced by the state and by campuses regarding the right to self defense. (Colorado Court of Appeals 3) Those opposed to the notion of allowing firearms on campus often hang onto the risks that such enactments could possibly result in.
Eliminating gun-free campuses nationwide could, in a sense, create very tense and hostile environments in schools and brings up several questions such as, “Will students feel safer knowing that the student sitting next to them could be ’packing’? ” (Siebel 1) The atmosphere created by the chance that there are people armed with guns sitting in close proximity to one another could spoil the integrity of “academic debate” (Rogers 1) in some if not most college campus settings, much pride is invested into the ability to share differing and sometimes controversial ideas on what could be an emotion stirring topic.
‘”[School] is a place where we depend on being able to speak our minds and offer sometimes controversial opinions in a free and open place,” she said. “The feeling among a percentage of faculty is that this will create a climate of fear and intimidation. ‘” (Frosch) The prospect of having guns in the classroom makes many people nervous or fearful for understandable reasons, and would likely lead to less focus on actual instruction and academic participation.
This immediate effect could also hold larger ramifications as time goes on with the possibility of affected grades, graduation rates, and possibly even lower enrollment rate from state to state depending on the campus gun laws. However, contrary to this belief shared by anti-gun groups, there does not seem to be any major spike in crime on those campuses that do allow concealed weapons to be carried, “71 campuses in three states already allow licensed concealed carry on campus…done so for years without a single resulting incident.
”(Burnett) This leads some to believe that the idea that allowing guns campus would turn them into potential warzones may be greatly exaggerated. Another major criticism gun carrying provisions say that the amount of issues that could arise from it outweigh the prevention possibilities suggested by supporters and would cause more gun related incidents to occur as a result. “[Critics] argue that the guns would make it easier for people barely out of adolescence, or perhaps emotionally troubled, to respond lethally to typical campus frustrations like poor grades or failed romances.
” (Archibold 2) That mode of thinking was supported in 2002 when University of Arizona student Robert Flores Jr. shot and killed 3 of his professors then himself after reportedly being barred from taking an exam by one of his professors. It was determined to be premeditated and likely emotion driven as “police said [he] specifically targeted the instructors, killing one in her office on the second floor and shooting the others in a fourth-floor classroom as students dove for cover.
” (Holguin) Of course in the same respect one could say that had the professors been armed some, if not all, lives could have been saved. One will almost never be able to definitively determine the emotions and motives behind someone going off on a rampage through a university, however it is not farfetched to predict that someone willing to take innocent lives would not be as likely to follow the laws concerning guns whether it was legal to carry or not.
Opposition to the pro-gun stance in this issue claim that the chances of catastrophic events such as the VTech Massacre are “rare” and usually “either last long enough for armed campus security to respond, or are over before anyone can react. ” (USA Today) While the likelihood of an attack occurring is admittedly not very high, it would be interesting to hear a Senator explain those odds to the family of someone killed in one of the many tragedies taken place across the country.
Also needed to take into account is the fact that some reports on violent crime “excludes incidents in which only one person was killed or injured, as well as incidents in which a student started shooting, but no one died. ” (CLAJ 291) Therefore leaving some reports skewed to the notion that an attack is not likely. The amounts of varying factors weighed in the decision whether or not to permit guns on campuses, causes a major divide between stances in the issue. Such a polarizing issue as gun control can never come to complete compromise.
Those uneasy about the idea of having live firearms in a classroom are unlikely to ever feel completely comfortable, and those who feel their right to self defense is being violated will continue to do so. Whether or not more states decide to adopt changes to gun laws, there will continue to be close attention paid to the measures campuses and states take to ensure the safety of students and staff. We can always speculate what could have been prevented, however much can be taken from tragedies in the past in an effort to deter any future attacks and prevent any more senseless acts of violence.