Guns on campus are a lousy idea

Photo by Shelby Knowles

On August 1, 2016, the law allowing concealed carry of loaded lethal weapons on all public college campuses in Texas took effect. Since then, those campuses have gone without major incident, if you don’t count the accidental discharge at Tarleton State, the shooting of a police officer at Texas Tech, and the police officer at the University of Texas at Austin shooting himself in the foot. It’s safe to say that we can expect more avoidable “mistakes,” like this one, all these ones, and, yes — probably that one.

Excepting the constant threat of a ‘responsible’ 21-year-old gun owner’s .45 stuffed in a backpack accidentally discharging into the right leg of a lecture hall neighbor, it’s been business as usual at UT-Austin — the breeding ground of the infamous “Cocks Not Glocks” protest and faculty-led lawsuits. For the rest of the country, however, the usual business has been permeated with a familiar morbidity: as of November 5th, the U.S. had racked up 307 mass shootings in 2017 alone. Just six weks ago, 58 people died at a Las Vegas concert, victims of a licensed gun owner who possessed 23 firearms. This month, an Air Force veteran, enabled by a deficient background check, killed 26 individuals in a church in Sutherland Springs, including an unborn fetus. As my fellow Longhorn Quinn Cox pontificated recently in TribTalk, these terrorist attacks had absolutely no correlation with the passage the campus carry law here or in any other other state. Respectfully, that’s not the point.

Many gun-rights advocates parrot the age-old bumper sticker adage, “Guns Don't Kill People; People Kill People,” in the wake of tragedies like those listed above. They jump to the mental health epidemic as a rationale for these rampage shootings, rather than the one indisputable vehicle that allows for these events to even occur: the availability of lethal weapons.

Granted, we must tackle the problem of providing Americans with access to proper mental health resources and the like, but many 2nd Amendment activists intentionally gloss over the proliferation of gun culture. The gun culture bacterium begins to seethe and grow in its latency phase in childhood, when we are handed Nerf guns, shown action movies fraught with cool machine guns and Glocks, and encouraged to arm our video-game characters with the most efficient killing machines available.

This normalization of the ostensible necessity for gun ownership thus carries on into adulthood: The Sutherland Springs killer substantiated this feeling of entitlement through a Facebook posting glorifying his assault rifle. The plight of dangerously loose and unreliable background checks allows these monsters to obtain military-size arsenals of lethal weapons. The ‘gun show loophole’ that places these lethal weapon flea markets outside of the grasp of congressional control creates a sort of black market of unreported gun purchases.

It takes a lot of work to get into the head of someone who strictly opposes reasonable gun control at this point in history. We must plow through the lives lost and blood spilled, swim through the barrage of “thoughts and prayers”, and dust off the ‘well-regulated militia’ clause in our Bill of Rights.

People like Cox are unable to ease their desperate grip on the lore of a ‘good guy with a gun.’

“What campus carry does do is allow law-abiding individuals one additional means of recourse should they be confronted with a dangerous situation, ensuring that they are not automatically put at a disadvantage,” he writes.

This is a centuries-old argument, but the times have changed. Just as we no longer wear powdered wigs and chastity belts, we no longer shoot guns that take a minute to reload. We no longer need a militia to protect us from a tyrannical government: We have a police force and Robert Mueller for that.

The argument that armed, responsible students can effectively defend themselves in the aforementioned “dangerous situation” has more holes than a target at an East Texas shooting range. In Texas, only 4 to 6 hours of training is required for Texans 21 and older to legally carry weapons onto my campus. As a 21-year-old myself, I have trouble keeping my car keys in one place; keeping a concealed handgun in a safe place where it won’t be stolen or accidentally murder my classmate is a huge responsibility. This is a particularly trying age: We’re now legally allowed to drink to our hearts’ content, we are exploring our sexual and personal identities and, most of all, we are contending with almost daily political conflicts that put our country in jeopardy.

Universities are meant to foster safe debate, expression of idiosyncratic beliefs and a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas about the worlds’ problems. The presence of a loaded gun in a Human Sexuality lecture hall effectively stills the freedom of speech of both students and staff.

Of course these mass tragedies that kill mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters are not a direct result of the GOP’s gun-pushing agenda manifest in the campus-carry law. Cox chooses to ignore the bigger problem: The pandemic proliferation of toxic gun culture. I was one of the organizers of the “Cocks Not Glocks” protest — meant to harmlessly spotlight the absurdity of allowing guns on campus juxtaposed with the concurrent ban on public brandishing of sex toys — and I have received countless death threats from self-reported legal gun owners. I have been told that I will be inevitably raped and unable to defend myself without killing someone.

Why should we arm men who can’t take a joke? Why is the process for obtaining handguns so easy? Should a centuries-old call for a ‘well-regulated militia’ allow any angry adult without a criminal record to wave guns at me and play vigilante? I’d rather not leave that for Cox to decide.

Ana Lopez

Student, UT-Austin