Phi Beta Cons

Will Guns on Campus Cause More Tragedies?

One of the great myths about America is that the “wild west” was extremely violent because there were no government regulations on guns. That idea was ably refuted by Terry Anderson and Peter Hill in their fascinating book The Not So Wild, Wild West. Nevertheless, many people and nearly all leftists harbor the notion that the way to reduce violence is to minimize the number of people who carry firearms.

Naturally, when Texas enacted a law allowing citizens who have permits to carry guns to bring them on the state’s college campuses, there was a great deal of wailing.

In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Professor Erik Gilbert of Arkansas State takes a look at this issue and concludes that it is a tempest in a teapot. Those who advocate legal gun carrying on campus probably overestimate the good it might do if a shooting incident were to occur, he argues. But on the other hand, those who think it will lead to an increase in violence are mistaken. Students aren’t going to “lose it” and bring out their guns over heated discussions in class. The fear among anti-gun academics that they might seems, Gilbert maintains, to reflect a tribal concept held by leftists that Americans who own guns are irresponsible, dangerous, unbalanced people.

Another weak argument against campus carry is that professors will steer away from controversial topics that could so enrage a student with a gun. Gilbert responds that this fear is utterly unrealistic. For one thing, many physically powerful students could do severe harm or even kill a professor without a gun, but outbreaks of such violence are unheard of. For another, even before campus carry laws, some students were probably carrying guns anyway, but there is no evidence of even one brandishing (much less using) a gun in class. Profs keep bringing up controversial material anyway.

Professor Gilbert concludes, “Happily, college campuses are typically pretty safe places compared with the rest of society. The strident debate on the issue is a tempest in a teapot, more about the political symbolism of guns than about safety.”

I think that’s correct. Nevertheless, I side with allowing people with gun permits to bring their weapons on campus. The possibility that an armed individual will do some good in a shooting situation outweighs the possibility that he will do harm.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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