A group of students and faculty at the University of Texas at Austin are passionately spearheading resistance to Texas’ new “campus carry” law.
According to the law, license-holders will be able to legally carry concealed handguns in most public university buildings as of August 2016. Private institutions, which generally prohibit firearms, can opt out of this policy. Recently Texas Christian University was first to exercise this discretion, electing to continue forbidding licensed carrying in its buildings.
While other private colleges are expected to follow suit, public colleges have less leeway. The new law provides them with some discretion in restricting firearms in certain areas, and at certain events, but for the most part they are expected to accommodate concealed-carry license-holders. Some people aren’t too happy about this. And the University of Texas has become their battleground.
UT’s opposition to the law began with emails conveyed among concerned faculty, and has gained momentum with protests over the fall semester. The newly founded opposition organization “Gun Free UT” has gained a significant following, “armed with reason” in its resistance to legitimizing firearms on campus.
Apparently not satisfied with reason alone, a rogue student-led scheme plans to outfit classmates with dildos as a more provocative expression of disapproval. This “Campus Dildo Carry” event will involve students toting sex toys around school to protest the new law when it goes into effect next August. As with handguns, openly carrying dildos is forbidden on college campuses. But hey – keep Austin weird, right? Or at least, “Hook ‘em Horns?”
In October an elderly professor announced his resignation, citing concerns over the legislation – namely the purportedly increased possibility of being murdered in class by a “disgruntled student.” His motives have come under some scrutiny. Apparently he’s semi-retired; was already on his way out with another job lined up; and presently teaches only one course, on introductory economics – not a subject often attributed to inciting violent, self-destructive eruptions (“End the Fed!”?), and one whose audience is generally too young for concealed-carry licensing anyway. Besides, his underlying assumption – that license-holders are even relevant to professor assassinations or other violent outbursts – is suggested by no past event.
Regardless, the gentleman will be transitioning to the University of Sydney, where Australian gun control will presumably shelter him from vengeful students. Back here in the Wild West reborn, his colleagues will continue his struggle – and assuredly never will forget his name.
(I already have.)
Campus carry concerns are hardly limited to the fugitive professor, nor are they in short supply. A host of academics have condemned the new policy. Besides safety, the most popular objection seems to be that legalized carry will inhibit free expression; that students and teachers will be afraid to voice contentious opinions when any who disagree might be legally armed (no one minds that they might already be illegally armed). Some professors have taken this point a step or five hundred steps further, claiming the new policy promotes white supremacy and racism – and, in the process, have blatantly displayed their own bigotry.
That campus carry suppresses free speech and minority groups is a curious argument. History presents the exact opposite relationship between oppression and gun control. Until quite recently, with the advents of terrorism, mass shootings, and the war on drugs, control of weapons was only ever about state suppression of minorities and dissidents, and explicitly so, in just about every civilization, ever.
But the opposition isn’t citing history. Often they’re just playing off their own emotions. First, there are those who are accustomed to enforcing their organizations’ exclusive power over firearms – namely the campus police, as well as, in a unique case, the University of Texas system chancellor, a former Navy SEAL military man and a vocal opponent of campus carry. Then we have those individuals who are simply unaccustomed to firearms altogether, who I’d guess comprise the majority of objecting students and faculty.
This categorization isn’t a rule; just a tendency. But it’s a useful one in understanding the emotions at play here. We’re dealing with two established extremes: monopoly and novelty.
When you’re a monopoly, used to being the only unassailable guns around, you resent the challenge of new unassailable guns. Conversely, when you’ve never touched a gun at all, you’re likely just afraid of them. I certainly used to be afraid of guns. But I was also afraid of pools before I swam, and of cars before I drove, and of knives, and planes, and fires, and plenty else.
Even with extensive experience, it’s reasonable to be wary of firearms, as with pools, cars, and the rest. But what’s going on at UT isn’t caution. It’s fearmongering. It’s fallacy and outright falsehood.
For example, they’ll say university students are too immature to carry. But only a small fraction of college students are even old enough – twenty-one and up – to qualify for concealed carry permits in Texas; a smaller fraction of those eligible ever obtain one; and statistically those who do tend to be among the most responsible, law-abiding people in the state (more so than police officers).
It is interesting to note here that of the forty-four states that offer concealed handgun licensing on a shall-issue basis, six allow license-holding at 18 years of age (rather than Texas’s age-limit of 21); and that of these six younger-issue states, four are among the five states with the lowest violent crime statistics in the country. The remaining two younger-issue states aren’t far behind. And the other state in that five-safest-state group, which also happens to be the second-safest state overall? That’s Vermont, which allows citizens aged 16 years and older to carry loaded handguns openly or concealed without a license.
At a minimum, this suggests that all hell doesn’t have to break loose among 21-year-olds on Texas campuses come August. Wild, wild New England seems to be doing just fine deregulating its teenagers. Can Texas deregulate its adults?
Attempting to stifle campus carry manifests as more unnecessary coddling of young adults, a common collegiate custom of late. Sure, professors need never venture beyond the phony security of their “gun-free” campuses. But what happens when their cosseted students creep out trembling into the bright light of the real world – and some of their coworkers are packing heat in the office? Will they then abstain from potentially contentious conversation with their colleagues? Will they then attempt to exercise their imaginary right to coerce their peers into accommodating their irrational fears?
The hysteria reveals a fundamental, characteristically academic detachment from reality. Concealed handguns are already permitted in public – in offices, grocery stores, shopping malls, movie theaters, banks, and so on. In fact, concealed handguns are already permitted on the grounds of public universities – just not yet in their buildings.
As a university student myself I’m too young to remember, but I’ve heard, and can imagine, how when the first concealed carry laws went into effect years ago, opponents insisted that mafia-style gunfights would erupt all over America. It turns out that, if anything, these laws may have had the opposite effect. But now the hysterics are at it again, wailing about how concealed handguns on university campuses will turn scholarly debates into shootouts.
Give me a break.
More than 150 American campuses currently allow for concealed carry; among them there has been not a single intentional violent act or suicide, nor a threat thereof, which involved a concealed carry license-holder or a license-holder’s associated handgun. Over the years there have been only three accidents on carrying campuses related to concealed handguns. All involved disuse of a holster – an inadvisable oversight when it’s not forbidden, as it easily could’ve been – and none resulted in life-threatening injury.
Suffice to say there are more pressing dangers on college campuses than concealed carry license-holders – things like real criminals, drugs, cars, the flu, frat-house balconies, ramen noodles, unlicensed shooters, and so on. For a thorough dismantling of any campus carry concerns, please see this discussion.
In the end, if you’re fearful for what’s to come in August, you have every reason to be even more fearful now. If someone intends to harm you or your university, they don’t need laws, licenses, or even guns. Certainly “gun free” signs aren’t going to stop them. Rules prohibiting legal carrying don’t magically exclude firearms; they just mean the only non-police guns will be illegal guns. They’re comfort for the irrational. Solace for the senseless. Opposing campus carry, are you really “armed with reason?” Or are you just unarmed and unreasonable, fighting with feelings alone?
If campus carry is anything meaningful to campus criminals, it’s not a green light, but rather a deterrent. But more importantly than that, Texas’ new law provides certain individuals with the legal ability to maintain their practice of self-protection not only outside campus facilities, but also within them. And while there’s plenty of agitation on both sides of the issue, you can be confident that, in the scheme of things, little will actually change. Just consider how inconspicuous concealed carry is on other carrying campuses around the country, or outside of university buildings in Texas. Most people almost never think about it.
And if you just don’t want to mess with guns, you don’t have to wait until August to arm yourself with pepper spray. Or, for that matter, a dildo – just keep it concealed. At least until August, when the “Campus Dildo Carry” protestors put numbers on your side.