"I hate you. You disgust me. How could you do this to me?"
It was fall of my sophomore year in college. I had just dropped the breakup bomb, and the guy was not taking it well. But as furious as he was, I was relieved that at least the worst part was over and we could start to move on.
Except this guy's version of moving on left something to be desired. At first, it was notes in my campus mail box and phone calls asking me to reconsider. When it was clear that I was really moving on, the tone shifted to jilted fury.
If I walked somewhere on campus with a male friend, my ex-boyfriend would let me know he'd seen me with another guy. I'd receive a message containing vile insinuations about what my friend and I must have been doing together.
When I came out of class, he'd often be waiting outside the door to walk back to the dorm with me. I begged him to leave me alone, but he persisted.
My dorm room was on the first floor, and sometimes he'd appear at the window, which was frequently open to the mild Houston air as I sat at my desk. "Hey," he'd bark at me, making me jump.
I had a weekly scheduled phone call with a friend back home. Over the course of our one hour-long conversation, the call waiting clicked at least 50 times. I didn't answer--this was in my ignoring phase. But he steadfastly refused to be ignored.
I looked into whether his behavior could be considered stalking. I consulted a resident associate as well as my uncle, a law enforcement officer in another city. Both were sympathetic, but felt there was little I could do. My ex seemed to know exactly how to make my life hell while staying on the legal side of the line. He never explicitly threatened me or laid a hand on me. But I have never been so afraid of a man's anger.
Senate Bill 11 is now law in Texas, the state where I grew up and attended college. The law requires the state's public universities to allow handguns in dorms, classrooms and campus buildings. Private universities are allowed to opt out of the requirement.
The Chancellor of the University of Texas, William McRaven, opposed this law when it was being debated. In a letter to the Texas legislature, he cited concerns from campus mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, and professors, then stated flatly, "I feel the presence of concealed weapons will make a campus a less safe environment." The law grants universities some rights to define specific areas where weapons may be prohibited, but I wish the legislature had taken Chancellor McRaven's concerns more seriously.
As I read the news of yet another shooting at yet another university, and consider the many implications of this law, I imagine being a 20-year-old college student today rather than two decades ago. I feel the sudden tightness in my chest when my ex shows up outside class, insisting on walking me home. I see myself enduring this menacing escort service, knowing that the sooner I get back to my dorm room the sooner I'm rid of him, at least for a little while.
In this imagined contemporary scenario, however, I picture him leaning forward to open the door for me... and I glimpse the flash of a gun inside his jacket.
The gun he is legally allowed to carry on campus as a 21-year-old.
The gun this new law requires a public university to respect his right to carry.
Two decades ago, this man made my life hell for several months, yet he broke no law--or even any official campus rules. In the contemporary scenario of my imagination, that's still the case, but this time he has a legal firearm he's allowed to carry.
And according to the logic of the NRA, his concealed weapon is what will protect me from the Chris Harper-Mercers of the world.
This logic does not comfort me; it terrifies me. Access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide more than five times than instances where there are no weapons, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Many people are understandably concerned about school shootings. They are happening too often, though a sensationalized media culture makes these events loom even larger--only 4 percent of mass shootings take place at schools. As horrific as these incidents are, they are dwarfed by the mass shootings that take place in private residences. But what college campuses have in abundance are jilted lovers, still stewing in the hormonal soup of adolescence. Campuses have newly-minted adults learning to navigate the stresses of college with brains that won't even reach full maturation until the early 20s. And campuses have lots and lots of alcohol.
What they don't need are lots and lots of guns.