Why guns on campus?

backpackStudents will be going back to college or starting college in the next few weeks all over America. The gun lobby wants them to carry guns along with their books, computers and notebooks. Why not? I’m sure there is a backpack meant for gun carrying. Sure enough- here is a site where you can order a “tactical back pack”. And, of course, there are the back packs designed to stop bullets. At this particular website you can also purchase body armor- also handy while walking from class to class. These would all come in handy if you think you are going to be experiencing a lot of gun fire where you go to school. Or if you think you are going to fire back at a shooter, which never really works out so well.

Yes, we all know there are shootings and have been very tragic mass shootings on our college campuses. Mass shootings happen everywhere these days and seem to be on the rise. Churches, military bases, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other public places are also scenes of mass shootings. The answer is not to increase the number of guns everywhere but to decrease them and do a much better job of screening the shooters and making sure all gun sales go through background checks. Our background check system has major flaws as I have written about before. So it is our obligation to fix the system and at least try to stop some of the shooters who commit mass murder or just “everyday” shootings.

The gun lobby keeps trying and sometimes succeeding in getting legislators to believe that people with permits to carry should be allowed to carry on college campuses. Now never mind that the campus leaders, administration and security staff are not clamoring to have guns carried around on their campuses. The public is mostly unaware as these bills often fly below the radar. But the average parent just does not want their young adult children to be exposed to people with guns carried where they are learning and studying and partying, etc. College years are stressful at best for most students. The work load is difficult. Expectations are high. Financial stresses enter in. Dating and romantic involvement can cause a lot of stress. The pressure to drink alcohol and get involved in drugs is always present. Students have a lot on their plates.

So why would someone think introducing loaded guns makes any common sense? This, of course, has nothing to do with common sense. This has to do with improving profits for the gun industry for if a new group of people are allowed to carry guns, a certain number will and then they will get themselves to a gun store and buy a weapon of their choice- a small concealable hand gun. Perfect.

In the last legislative year, many of the guns on campus bills were defeated or didn’t get a hearing. In Florida, a bill was defeated. But it’s back again. This editorial from the Orlando Sentinel opposes the bill and for many good reasons:

Allowing guns on campus would inject deadly weapons into an atmosphere already swirling with academic pressure, romantic rivalries, youthful impetuousness, and alcohol and drugs. What could possibly go wrong?

Supporters of the bills claim guns would make campuses safer because concealed permit holders could defend themselves and others from criminals without having to wait for the police. They cite last year’s shooting at Florida State University, in which a lone gunman wounded three people at the library before police arrived and shot him dead.
But when the bills were considered during the last legislative session, every public university president — including FSU’s John Thrasher — and police chief registered his or her opposition. At a summit this past week organized by the League of Women Voters, Valencia College police chief Paul Rooney, a former Orlando police chief, advised legislators to pay special attention to the opposition from campus law enforcement. “Let’s listen to the folks who know best,” Rooney said.

Inadequately trained young people carrying guns is just a bad idea. And, as the editorial says, students are safer on campus than off when it concerns gun violence.

One of the little addressed problems with allowing loaded guns on campus is suicide. According to NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, college aged students are in an age group prone to certain mental illnesses . Not every one with a mental illness commits suicide of course. And mentally ill people are not necessarily more dangerous with guns than others. But why introduce a deadly weapon into the mix of all of the other things going on with young people in their late teens and early twenties?  We know that guns are more deadly in suicide attempts and are the method most used, especially by young men who are the ones most likely to carry their guns.

And we have new evidence about alcohol use, abuse and guns from this article in The Trace:

Several studies have established the relationship between alcohol abuse and firearm-related crimes. Just as an individual is severely handicapped while operating a car under the influence, these studies found that similar failures in judgment and impulse control manifest during the operation of a firearm. Research shows that the risk of homicide, suicide, and violent death by all causes is significantly elevated with chronic alcohol abuse. Another studyfound a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and “impulsive” crimes such as assault and property damage.

Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, has conducted two recent studies on alcohol use among gun owners and how it might impact their behavior. In 2011, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — an annual survey of risk-related behaviors conducted by the Centers of Disease Control — for eight states and more than 15,000 respondents, he found that gun owners are significantly more likely than non-firearm owners to have five or more drinks on one occasion, to drink and drive, and have 60 or more drinks per month.

Additionally, in 2015, Wintemute discovered that firearm owners who drink excessively had a history of risky behavior, including higher rates of non-traffic offenses, an overall higher risk of arrest, and greater reported “trouble with the police.” Alcohol abuse, the 2011 study found, also leads to risky behavior with guns: For instance, alcohol intoxication is likely to impair a firearm owner’s “decision-to-shoot” judgment. And while Wintemute didn’t seek a direct link between alcohol abuse and gun violence, he did conclude that of the nearly 400,000 firearm-related deaths between 1997 and 2009, “it is probable that more than a third of these deaths involved alcohol.”

Given the risky behavior of college students and alcohol use, what are legislators thinking? We now want to mix loaded guns into the college scene? Apparently legislators are thinking not much except loyalty and obedience to the corporate gun lobby who line some of the political pockets and unduly influence our elected leaders.

There’s something even more insidious going on here. An article written for the on-line source, The Trace, actually researched the silent and underground movement to get guns onto college campuses and into the hands of young adults. Why have guns on college campuses become so important to a minority of conservatives and gun advocates? It seems they will go to any length to convince the public and elected leaders, including using an editorial piece about a student who was stalked to promote the idea of guns on campus for women.

It is unclear to what extent Fox News knew that the op-ed, which concludes with the line, “If schools and society can’t guarantee my safety and the safety of victims like me, it’s time we have the chance to defend ourselves so we can stop living in fear,” was written by a male pro-gun advocate.

Although the piece carries an editor’s note saying only that Lott “contributed to this article,” according to emails viewed by Buzzfeed, Lott admitted to a Fox News editor, “It was actually easier for me to write this in the first person for her than the way I had originally written it.” In a statement to Buzzfeed, Fox News Executive Vice President and Executive Editor John Moody said FoxNews.com “published what was characterized to us as a first person account of Ms. Woolrich’s experiences.”

Lott promoted the op-ed in a post on the website of his Crime Prevention Research Center under the headline, “Taylor Woolrich’s op-ed at Fox News describes what it is like to be stalked, lots of other media coverage.”

Accompanying the post, Lott wrote, “Taylor Woolrich has a very powerful op-ed at Fox News that starts this way,” before offering an excerpt. The post noted that Woolrich’s story was gaining national media coverage, listing dozens of outlets that had covered the story including Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, and BBC.

Woolrich told Buzzfeed that she “wanted to talk to the media, if it could mean something positive. But I wanted to talk to the media about stalking.” Her interaction with Lott, she said, left her feeling like “an NRA puppet”:

This kind of deception is shameful, stupid and potentially dangerous. The gun lobby uses fear, paranoia and false stories to further it’s own agenda.

The facts about the dangers of loaded guns on our college campuses are too important to be using women to promote the agenda of the gun lobby. John Lott, the man whose previous research and ideas that more guns make us safer has been discredited, is the poster boy for all that is wrong with the American gun culture. Check out this article by Mike the Gun Guy on the subject.

Women are not safer when armed. That is a fallacy. There is absolutely no evidence that points in that direction. Selling guns to women for self protection, however, will increase sales. Women are generally less safe in homes with guns. 

So let’s look at some other important facts. Andy Pelosi of Keep Guns Off Campus provided me with these graphs showing that people are actually safer on campus than off, for the most part. The organization has worked for years to stop the gun lobby from getting legislators to allow guns on our college campuses. So below are some new and interesting graphs showing where students are safe and where they are not.

US total crime rate US vs. private college crime

US vs college crime rates

From these graphs provided to me we can see that overall crime rates are significantly lower on college campuses than off campus. The exception is forcible rape which we can see is higher, for some reason, on private campuses. So would women be safer with a gun, assuming they had a place to carry it, during a forcible on campus rape- or off campus for that matter. There is nothing to suggest they would and they could actually be more at risk.

LaPierre’s proclamation bears the hallmarks of a litany of misconceptions. Gun aficionados often frame the debate in terms of protection, but it is vital to realise that the vast majority of rape and murder victims are not harmed by nefarious strangers, but by people they know, and often love – friends, family members, lovers. Far from protecting people and keeping families safe, the sad truth is that firearms are often used in episodes of domestic violence. The John Hopkins centre for gun policy research has some sobering facts on this; women living in a home with one or more guns were three times more likely to be murdered; for women who had been abused by their partner, their risk of being murdered rose fivefold if the partner owned a gun.

Nor did guns make the women safer; women who purchased guns were 50% more likely to be killed by an intimate partner. So LaPierre’s “good woman with a gun” is actually, it seems, putting herself in danger.

Viewed in this light, the NRA’s insistence that rapes can be prevented with firearms or that teachers should be armed appear even more stupid than they already seemed. It is worth remembering that just as America leads the world in gun ownership, so too does it lead the world in gun homicide, with 11,000 to 12,000 murders committed by firearms each year. The tired old rationalisation that guns protect people is frankly contradicted by the evidence. The inescapable conclusion is that gun ownership makes everyone less safe. The logic the NRA espouses is perverse and transparently self-serving – the solution to gun crimes is not more guns, and no amount of rhetorical dexterity can surmount this fact. If the US is to have a truly honest discussion about its gun culture, it needs to be rooted in fact rather than fantasy, and the sound and fury from the NRA should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

That about sums it up. Common sense should prevail.