Sometimes there’s a topic you’d really like to discuss, but you’ve said things about it before, and you don’t want to be boring. And sometimes others more eloquent and with more credibility have already said more about it than you can say. But then the subject of gun proliferation and, more specifically, guns on campus pops up again and all bets are off. Your conscience won’t let you stay silent.
Can there be any sane person, anywhere, who thinks the bill the Governor recently signed allowing concealed carry on our campuses is a rational, thoughtful, sensible measure? He said he was persuaded to reverse the stance he held last year on the same matter because there’d been added the designation of several gun-free areas like on-campus preschools, and various offices, disciplinary hearings, locations where high school students are involved, and such.
Well, I admit that I’m pleased at the exclusion of concealed weapons from the preschool area, but won’t that create considerable complexity for those who want the comfort of a side arm on the hip but intend to go to more than one area on campus? I don’t mean to bad-mouth our college students, but I knew a few in my day who had trouble finding their way to class at the right time and place without any complications. Planning for personal firepower some of the time and going bare at other times during the same day could be overwhelming.
It may be that I’m missing something here. I’m capable of doing that. But I fail to see the need to allow students, faculty, or anyone else routinely and freely to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus. Yes, there may come a time when there’s a threat, terrorist or otherwise, and an armed student may blaze away with his weapon and neutralize the threat. Or, equally likely, he or she may kill or wound one or more innocent bystanders.
I’ve been around guns all my life. I like guns, not because I want to shoot somebody, but simply because I’m impressed by a finely machined, meticulously assembled, solid piece of equipment that is, for some of us, fun to use. I spent, counting two years Army Reserve time, thirty years in uniform, in the Infantry. I was reasonably competent with all the firearms I handled, especially with the pistol.
But to be effective today, I would need to polish that proficiency frequently. I haven’t done so in many years, nor have a lot of the people who walk around with a pistol on their person. I compensate for that by keeping, in addition to my other weapons, a 12-gauge shotgun. If your life is threatened, you don’t have to be all that skillful to use a shotgun. Even so, in a crisis I would expect my hands to shake and adrenalin to pump seriously. So could the young student or the older professor. I would not want to be anywhere in the neighborhood when a novice with a Glock undertook to play hero.
I was recently privileged to sit in a group of local citizens of varied backgrounds and political outlooks. They were gathered to discuss problems facing our society today, and they did so with respect for different viewpoints and with the hope of finding the beginnings of solutions. One of the problems discussed at length was the increasing saturation of our society with guns, a spreading malignancy driven by the National Rifle Association and, in my opinion, a paranoid and apparently unfounded fear that the Second Amendment is in danger. And that it must be protected by an irrational drive to arm as many citizens as possible, without regard to the costs, physical, emotional, or cultural.
Members of the group who had made special and repeated efforts to discuss their concerns with our elected leaders had been met with a deafening silence. The leaders didn’t hear them. Apparently they only hear the sound of money.
Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of “Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage.”