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Guns Have No Place on College Campuses

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Did Texas make campuses safer by legalizing firearms on public university campuses? This student says no.

It was the afternoon of May 1st, 2017. I was sitting in my apartment, studying for a midterm when I heard the news. There had been an attack on campus: a stabbing.

The culprit was a 21 year-old male named Kendrex White, and he had attacked four people with a knife. One of them, Harrison Brown, tragically lost his life. Kendrex, who was, according to his ex-classmate Angela Bonilla, “the sweetest guy, laughing and having a good time with people,” had mental health issues, which caused him to do something he would normally never have done.

As I was processing this series of disturbing events, a thought that was even more chilling popped into my head: “What if he had had a gun?”

This potentially tragic situation would have been possible due to a new law enacted by the state of Texas that permits individuals to carry concealed handguns on campus. In a macabre twist, this law came into action on the 50th anniversary of the shooting at the University of Texas, where a sniper took up a position in the tower and killed 15 people (including one unborn child), while injuring several more.

The new law basically allows license holders to carry concealed handguns on the campuses of all state 4-year colleges and universities, as well as in any building that has not been demarcated “sensitive” by the college in question. Those who support this new policy argue that more firearms on campuses could prevent massacres like the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech and may also reduce the prevalence of sexual assault.

These arguments, however, fail to properly account for the risks involved with allowing students and faculty to carry guns on campus.

According to a recent study  by David Hemenway of Harvard, women very rarely successfully defend themselves from their would-be rapists with a firearm. Out of 300 plus cases of sexual assault, not a single one was stopped by possession of a firearm. Not only does this law not help prevent sexual assault, it could also potentially make it easier for the offenders to commit the act.

Secondly, a report from the FBI, which details 160 active shooting incidents from 2000-2013, found that only one of these was stopped by a concealed carry permit holder, and he was a U.S. Marine. Comparatively, twenty-one of these incidents were stopped by unarmed civilians. In several cases, an armed bystander has tried to stop the attacks and has either been killedinjured, or nearly shot the wrong person.

To quote David Chipman, a policy adviser at Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence: “Training for a potentially deadly encounter meant, at a minimum, qualifying four times a year throughout my 25-year career. And this wasn’t just shooting paper—it meant doing extensive tactical exercises. And when I was on the SWAT team we had to undergo monthly tactical training.”

What Mr. Chipman is saying, essentially, is that the training that civilians go through in order to get their gun licenses is nowhere near enough to be prepared for a real encounter with an armed suspect.

The presence of concealed weapons on campus is also a safety hazard. For example, in September 2014, a professor at Idaho State University accidentally shot himself in the foot during class.

Arguments can turn fatal as well, as can be seen from an incident which occurred on October 9th, 2015 wherein one of the participants in a fraternity fight in a parking lot of a Northern Arizona University ran to his car, grabbed his gun, and opened fire, killing one and injuring 3 others.

Many professors have backed out of teaching positions or speaking appearances at UT after the gun law was passed. Harry Edwards of UC Berkeley announced that he was rescinding all ties with the University of Texas, while Karla F. C. Holloway of Duke withdrew her acceptance of an invitation to speak at U.T.’s Institute for Literary and Textual Studies.

Having witnessed what a knife in the hands of a mentally disturbed person can do, I have no wish to witness the horrors that could be perpetrated by a similar individual with a gun. It is clear that the presence of firearms on campus is more of a hindrance than a help.

Adarsh Venkataraman is a student at The University of Texas at Austin.

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