The new year is finally here and with that comes a new legislative session.
This week also marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting in Tucson that killed six while injuring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 11 others.
Multiple news sources reported last week that the new session will come with renewed efforts to pass a bill allowing guns to be carried on Arizona’s university campuses.
Arizona is one of the easiest states in which to acquire a firearm. Attaining a gun in Arizona requires little more than going to a store, filling out a federal background check form and buying the gun. Purchasing a gun doesn’t even require a social security number. (It’s optional, used to help prevent misidentification when running the federal background check.)
And while this is our civil right to own a firearm, I have to question whether it is necessary to have a gun in an educational environment.
I feel it is important to mention that I grew up in a family that owned guns. My dad has hunted since he was in high school and I’ve spent nearly every opening weekend of hunting season up in Republic, Wash., where my family owns property.
Over the years, my dad taught me basic gun safety and I wasn’t allowed near the locked safe where he kept his guns and ammunition.
I don’t know how old I was the first time my dad let me shoot a gun. I’m sure I was young and I know I was properly supervised.
I do know the first time I saw what guns can do. I remember looking for my dad, I was probably about 3- or 4-years-old and my cousin told me he was in the barn. I pushed open the door and saw a half-skinned deer hanging from the rafters.
To me, the idea was planted in my brain: people who shoot guns can kill things.
The adage says that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But the thread woven between the two ideas is this: people who have guns carry the capacity to kill.
When it comes to being protected, I have to question whether students, faculty and staff need to have a gun to protect themselves and those around them. Personally, I in no way feel that guns should be allowed on campus, with the obvious exception of law enforcement.
While living, commuting and studying on two ASU campuses, I always felt the Arizona State University Police Department was more than capable of keeping me and my fellow students safe.
Yet while writing this, so many hypothetical questions that keep entering my head. As each question rolls through my mind, it makes me wonder why it would be smart to allow guns on campus. I fully acknowledge the fact that responsible gun owners will not cause a university shooting and those who do cause shootings at colleges are in no way in the same category as responsible gun owners.
That being said, how can even a responsible gun owner know how to properly handle a school shooting situation without proper training? Can an everyday citizen be expected to handle a firearm in the same capacity as a trained police officer or military personnel?
Given extreme stress and extreme situations, how will a citizen respond? Will others get caught in the crossfire?
Speaking hypothetically, if a school shooter was in a classroom, shooting at students and the professor, how would the police know who was the shooter if two or three people have drawn weapons? What if three different people are firing weapons? Who do the police focus on?
In the time that it could take police to determine a shooter, precious seconds could be lost. In the space of a second how many rounds would be fired?
In the previous legislation that was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year, people would be required to check their firearm at the building entrance and put it into a gun locker. Even if a student or staff member were capable of properly responding to an imminent threat, would their gun even be of much use if it’s locked in another room?
And even if you don’t take my word for it, as a recent college student, nearly every university assembly body is in agreement: from the governing board of the state universities, to smaller student assemblies inside the universities, allowing firearms on campus is not supported.
“Despite renewed efforts to introduce legislation again this year to allow firearms on campus, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) remains firm that firearms do not have a place at our public universities,” wrote Thomas Anderes, Ph.D., president of the Arizona Board of Regents, in an email Tuesday.
The email further explains:
“The effects of allowing firearms on our campuses are not insignificant. Carrying of firearms by those outside of law enforcement poses an enormous threat to the thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors on our campuses. In addition to creating real concern for safety, such legislation also could have substantial impact on student and faculty recruitment and retention. Finally, such a measure compromises the resources of the university system, distracting the universities from their core mission of providing a high-quality education to students in a safe environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas.”
What’s more, a resolution passed in January 2010 (related to a similar measure in the state legislature) by the ASU Graduate and Professional Student Association states that after consulting students, GPSA “opposes the use, possession, display, or storage of any type of weapon or firearm (loaded and unloaded, simulated and real) on any University premises or at any University-sponsored events, except by University authorized law enforcement officers and University authorized organizations. This includes the storage of firearms in locked vehicles, locked containers on motorcycles, or in University-sanctioned storage facilities.”
Kelley Stewart, the president of GPSA and a former firearms instructor agrees that the presence of guns on campus isn’t necessary.
“We’re always looking for sensible solutions to provide a safe campus for students,” Stewart said. And while she considers herself to be in favor of responsible gun ownership, she doesn’t see the need for guns on campus.
Who better to ask about allowing firearms on campus than the ones who would be directly affected by the legislation?
In a place where the “free exchange of ideas” is the ultimate goal, do firearms support and further that mission?
I know I felt safe living, learning and socializing in a firearm-free campus. I hope other students get to keep that same sense of security.
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