Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Guns on campus bill will not make Arizona colleges safer, or more dangerous

The Second Amendment, and the way it has recently been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, makes most bills that attempt to bar or inhibit Americans from possessing guns futile.

On the flip side, the resistance of many Americans to surrendering to a totally armed populace has made it difficult to pass new laws that repeal or liberalize gun possession restrictions.

Last month, Arizona’s gun-toter-in-chief, Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, has once again proposed an omnibus gun bill that includes allowing college students and faculty to pack heat on campus.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar Gould bill last year but not because the state’s community college boards, university presidents and faculty organizations were nearly unanimous in opposition. Brewer’s beef was with vague language.

So Gould crafted a new bill this year that allows people with a concealed-carry permit to keep their guns in their pants (or purse) while on campus. If a college doesn’t want guns in the classroom, it has to provide storage lockers and metal detectors at all entrances to buildings, a cost so prohibitive it’s almost guaranteed not to happen.

College leaders and administrators are once-again lining up in opposition. In doing so, they run out a parade of horribles to illustrate the harm pistol-packing students and teachers will cause. Why, it will be Armageddon – drunken college students shooting up dorms and fraternities, running gun battles in the halls; mass hysteria.

Except it won’t happen. Four states – Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and Mississippi- already allow guns on campus and so far nothing bad has happened. Nor is it likely to happen.

The common counter to that data is Virginia Tech, in which a student in 2007 killed more than 30 students and teachers. Or locally, the UA Nursing School shooting in 2002 in which a student killed three teachers.

How could those shootings happen when Virginia and Arizona banned guns on campuses? It happened because both shooters were insane. Funny thing about the insane, they tend not to care what the law says.

Guns can’t be banned because of the Second Amendment. But a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller, has opened the door to regulating how they can be possessed outside of the home.

In that ruling (and a subsequent 2010 ruling), the court disconnected guns from regulated militias and ruled that the Second Amendment allowed Americans to keep guns in their homes for self defense. It didn’t extend that protection to persons and has raised questions about what happens to guns outside of the home.

Some states are taking advantage of that ruling and seeking tighter restrictions on gun possession, other states, such as Arizona, are taking the opposite tack and loosening gun restrictions.

The early data show that states that have tightened gun laws have seen no marked decrease in gun violence. Yet the same goes for states that have loosened gun laws – there has been no marked increase in gun violence.

Morever, as a society, we seem to have a high tolerance for gun violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 100,000 people suffer gunshot wounds in America every year and about a third of them die. (That’s a higher casualty rate than most wars America has fought.)

Of those who died, more than half were suicides. The majority of the rest were shootings connected to drug dealing.

Gun restriction advocates like to say that strict controls on gun ownership, or even eradication will lower the numbers of killed and wounded. Hardly. There are nearly 200 million firearms in American homes. Irrespective of the Second Amendment, there’s no realistic way to get rid of those guns, which means criminals and depressives will still have access to them.

On the other hand, gun rights advocates like to argue that if all Americans carried a gun, crime would plummet because any time a ne’er-do-well drew his gat, an army of pistol-packing mammas and papas would draw their shootin’ irons and gun the varmint down. That will never happen. Morever, if it ever did, the crossfire from all the missed shots would be more likely to kill bystanders than bad guys.

So the argument that we’ll be less safe if everyone’s got a gun is just as specious that we’ll be safer if everyone does.

Most of the gun violence in this country (other than suicides) is committed by people involved in the illicit drug trade. Solve the illegal drug problem in America and the amount of gun violence will fall precipitously.

Pass Gould’s bill or don’t, it won’t really matter. College campuses will be just as safe (or dangerous, depending on your perspective) if some faculty and students have concealed guns than if they didn’t.

Search site | Terms of service