The Texas legislature has passed Senate Bill 11, which allows college students to carry a concealed, holstered gun into college campus buildings. Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law.
I'm a professor. I've taught at Ohio Northern University, Duke University, Seattle Pacific University, and now Southern Methodist University. I've been around. Let me tell you why I think this is a great bill.
- Campus Carry Is Great Exposure for Higher Education. College reputations aren't built on academics alone. We know Auburn from football, Tennessee from women's basketball, Butler from men's hoops. A campus shooting--and the more guns we can squeeze onto a campus, the likelier the chance one will go off--calls attention to that college for a week or so. It's like winning the NCAA championship--only more dramatic. All press is good press. Who doesn't want the press of a campus shooting?
- Campus Carry Is a Great Indication That College Education Actually Works. You have to be 21 to carry a concealed weapon. This is important. Freshman, at 18, probably aren't mature enough to have a holstered gun in public places and dorm rooms. On the other hand, juniors and seniors are mature enough, once they've taken Introduction to Sociology, Psychology, Calculus, maybe even Anatomy and Physiology for pre-meds, who can administer first aid to the victims. So people will see that a college education makes a difference--it makes students more mature, able to pack heat responsibly once they've finished their liberal arts requirements and general electives.
- Campus Carry Will Show Us That Alcohol Is Not a Problem on College Campuses. This bill means that students can have guns in their dorm rooms. Those of us in higher education can finally show our uncultured despisers that our students can control their alcohol. I am absolutely certain that at 3 AM on a Sunday morning, no student will ever, in a drunken stupor, take out a gun and accidentally shoot himself or a friend. It won't happen because college students control their alcohol intake, so we'll finally put to rest the criticism that college students party too much.
- Campus Carry Will Show Us That There Is No Violence on Campus. The Obama administration has clamped down on sexual violence on college campuses. We hear so much about rape, when those of us in higher education know what college presidents have been saying for years: American colleges don't have a problem with sexual violence. Campus Carry gives us a better, more objective indicator of this lack of violence. With rape, we have to take a woman's word for it. It's he said, she said. Now, we'll have actual bodies blown to bits, or not, to measure violence on campus--and to demonstrate, once and for all, how rare violence on college campuses is.
- Campus Carry Is Great for Journalists and People Like Me. When I write for the The Huffington Post, most of my posts are facebooked or tweeted a couple of dozen times, if I manage to cajole my friends to read them. The morning after the campus shooting at Seattle Pacific University on June 5, 2014, where one student died and two were injured, religion editor Paul Raushenbush asked me to write a post, since I taught at SPU. I did. That afternoon, my numbers shot through the roof. The post has garnered 5600 likes, 1032 shares, and 190 tweets. If there is a shooting at SMU, I'll have the chance to write another blockbuster post. It's good for me -- as long as I'm not the one shot, though even that will result in posts, written by other HuffPost authors, which will make me more famous when I'm dead than when I was alive. For a few days, at least, until the next news cycle. How many college professors manage even that glimmer of fame?
Now let me take my tongue out of my cheek. I trust you've seen the sarcasm in this post. In fact, I'm bewildered by a state legislature that thinks students need guns to get to their cars at night -- rather than university escorts, campus security, a golf cart, or even a group of friends. Why solve with community effort what could otherwise be resolved by a gunshot to the head, right? Why risk running into a pole with a golf cart rather than shooting a shadowy but innocent figure in a parking lot?
I take this bill personally. Exactly one year ago today, as I write, on the evening of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University, I sat with students on the main quad, picking at the grass, wondering, grieving with each other, and barely praying. It was a poignant moment -- and deafening with grief. I can't help but believe that the alchemy of guns and alcohol and youth and late-night parties and stress runs the risk of accidental shootings. I don't want to see the images again: candlelight vigils; prayer meetings; flowers stacked on flowers on nondescript street corners and campus buildings. I couldn't bear it.