There are several different ways to approach the discussion regarding the right to carry concealed weapons on a college campus, which has been raised by the provocative “Empty Holster Protest” on our campus this week. Students are asking for the concealed weapon laws to be applied on university campuses in the same way they are applied elsewhere in the state, effectively superseding the weapons bans in effect on most campuses.
One could discuss the issue citing statistical data, which supports their position. The students participating in the protest have been using various resources, which outline a reduction in crime due to law-abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons. The data puts forth the general notion that citizens who go through the training to obtain the license are both responsible and do not commit crimes themselves. I have found many opposing resources disputing those assertions, listing crimes by permit holders or critiquing the methodologies used to compile the information.
One could have an in-depth discussion on constitutional law involving the Second Amendment and the various legal interpretations which have made their way through the courts. Currently the Supreme Court is hearing the McDonald v. Chicago case and the decision will have a major influence on the scope of gun restrictions. The petitioners are asking for the current ban on handguns along with several other gun regulations in Chicago to be declared unconstitutional.
One could discuss how some universities post security guards in every building and maybe talk about the possible use of non-lethal protection, or the negative influence of the darker side of gun advocacy, such as the extreme militias.
Without discounting the validity of those approaches, I have chosen a different path involving what I think is a broader, more important view. Let’s assume for a moment that the data presented by the group “Students for Concealed Carry on Campus” is completely accurate. Why do we live in a society which compels citizens to arm themselves in support of their own safety? What are the underlying reasons for such a convergence of negative influences? How can we effectively alter or change those influences improving our society? I realize how obscure the answers to these questions are, but we must continue to ask and strive for potential answers.
I feel that the arming of one’s self is a way of accepting or confirming that the only way to fight those negative influences is to join them. It may be a realist viewpoint, but it is also a defeatist viewpoint, which carries the possible consequence of contributing to the problem, despite intentions. I remember a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.” I know in my heart that having more armed citizens or more guns is not the best answer, and all the idealism left in my mind is fighting to prevent fear or cold rationalism from taking over.
I confirm the potential for primal or evil acts, which resides within each of us. I once saw a piece of artwork by the French artist Christian Boltanski that utilized family snapshots.
They were images of men standing with their wives and kids in front of Christmas trees, playing in the yard, at family gatherings. Everyone in the photos was smiling and happy; the images looked like everyday snapshots, completely innocent. They were husbands and fathers, sons with mothers who loved them. Then you noticed the small SS officer pins on the men’s lapels. They were the worst within the German ranks, officers at the camps, what we now view as evil men. How can a gun board, reading an application, really know the totality of a man?
I certainly support the student’s right to protest the restrictions concerning concealed weapons on campus. Although specific presentations of the statistical data can be compelling, when critiquing our society, we need to strive to address larger concerns and avoid making reactionary policy. When an individual or a broader society discounts its own potential to cause harm disastrous consequences can result.