Guns on college campuses: Worst idea ever

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On Monday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns on some parts of Arizona public college campuses.

Her reason: The bill was not as clear as it should be.

Not that she was concerned about the safety of everyone on public college campuses.

I have taught on three Maine community college campuses for the past four years, all of which ban guns from their campuses. I’ve heard students complain in the past that they’re heading out hunting after class and don’t want to run home to fetch their guns.

I’ve also, of course, heard the argument that students and staff should have the ability to defend themselves should someone walk onto campus with a gun and the intent to hurt people.

And I completely understand that argument. I can only imagine the terror and helplessness the students and staff felt during the Virginia Tech shooting, and the pain of those who were hurt and killed. I sincerely hope Maine campuses never experience anything like that.

But I think allowing guns on campuses is a quick way to invite violence into our otherwise relatively safe classrooms.

Guns don’t cause violence, I know. But they do provide a tool for those looking to cause violence. A convenient tool, if you can bring them to class with you.

Right now, if a person wants to hurt students or teachers, that person would have to develop a plan, schedule it, think about what he/she would be doing and then drive to school to carry it out. That means there’s time between the idea’s inception and the action. Time, one would hope, that the person could reflect on the consequences, consider the impact and ultimately decide not to go through with it. And if that person did decide to act on his/her plan, there are any number of people he/she may come into contact with, including possibly security personnel, before having the chance to act.

On the other hand, if my students, many of whom are still teenagers, are able to carry loaded guns into my classroom, I shudder to think of the implications.

If you’ve never told an irresponsible student he’s failing because he hasn’t written an essay all semester and then had him threaten you, or storm out in a rage, perhaps you don’t understand the implications of allowing that same 18-year-old  who may or may not be under the influence (I’ve had several students come to class obviously high before) to brandish a gun.

I hand out failing grades to more than 50 percent of my class every semester. Those grades often cost those students money, money many of them don’t have. Failing grades can cause emotional harm, frustration and disengagement. Many first year community college students drop out for those exact reasons, which causes them stress, which, of course, can lead to poor decision making.

Teenagers are notoriously impulsive. While, most of them would never hurt anyone, if we allowed them to carry guns to school, what makes us think some of them might not turn those guns on us or each other.

Remember dorm life? Remember the drama, the conflict, the anger that so and so stole your girlfriend or boyfriend? Imagine if you knocked on your girlfriend’s door, only to find her new boyfriend aiming a gun at you? Now imagine everyone’s drunk.

There are just so many possibilities that students would get hurt, that guns would be used far more frequently than the horrifying, but thankfully rare, school shootings we have today.

Every year when my students protest by wearing empty holsters to school, I tell them the same thing: The day students are allowed to bring guns to school is the day I stop teaching.

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