A university campus isn’t one of the world’s most dangerous places. As a college professor’s wife, I’ve got nothing on army wives, police wives, or fishermen’s wives. Still, when I watch my husband head off to work, a dark thought occasionally flits through my mind. Is it possible his university will be the next to furnish a stage for some psychopathic loner’s macabre suicide fantasy? One never knows.
Clearly, the school shooting is becoming a preferred exit strategy for the criminally insane. Some speculate on how we might stem this tide, with liberals demanding gun control and conservatives more reasonably speculating on the possible upsides of media prudence (for instance, in not printing a shooter’s name) and better facilities for mental health. I doubt whether any of these strategies will do much good.
Fixing the problem through gun control would be unrealistic, even if we were willing to shrug off the Constitution. America is already filled with guns, and there’s no feasible way to reclaim them. I have no objection to exploring the other solutions, but doubt they’ll have much efficacy, and I’m even inclined to ask: if it weren’t campus shootings, wouldn’t it just be something else?
Glorifying Victimhood Doesn’t Help
We live in a world that glorifies aberration and celebrates victimhood. Meanwhile, family and community breakdown, along with a burgeoning welfare state, have left us with hordes of angry, bitter loners who spend hours of their day consoling themselves for their undeveloped manhood by consuming violent media in industrial quantities.
I should say this sotto voce, but there are much more effective ways to kill people en masse. The school shooting is horrific, especially when it involves the slaughter of children. Even so, I’m somewhat grateful that our homicidal maniacs haven’t settled on something more destructive.
In short, I don’t think it’s possible, or even necessarily advisable, to stop the problem before it starts. “This should never have happened!” we cry, when reading the wrenching stories of lives ended and families destroyed.
Of course, all else being equal, we would certainly prefer to live in a world where such things didn’t happen. But the social conditions that precipitate these shootings are as broad as they are deep. Some (gun ownership) should not be changed. Others (massive victim complexes) most emphatically should be changed, if anyone can figure out a way to do it. But we’re not going to fix those problems overnight, and given the gravity of the spiritual sickness, we should probably be grateful that the death toll hasn’t been larger.
Let Would-Be Victims Shoot Back
It’s one thing to accept that my husband’s mostly-safe job has a slightly increased risk of death by psychopath. It’s quite another to accept that he can’t do anything about it. Granted, it isn’t likely that someone would try to murder him and his students in cold blood. We now have to agree, though, that the risk is no longer entirely negligible. If news rooms were being shot up at the same rate, I’m guessing we’d be seeing major movement on the protect journalists front.
As it is, the Students for Concealed Campus initiative has helped bring campus-carry legislation to 13 states, but only one (Texas, of course!) has actually passed major legislation to permit concealed carry on campus. The great majority of university faculty and staff are still stuck hoping “campus security” can get on top of the situation before they and their students all die.
Academics aren’t underprivileged, of course. They’re just extremely squeamish about guns. That’s why we see communities of healthy, intelligent people choosing to be sitting ducks for murderous psychopaths. It’s infuriating; aren’t universities supposed to be gathering places for smart people? So how do they conclude that it’s a good idea to permit (nay, insist!) the guy with the murder-and-death wish the cozy security of knowing he’ll be the only one around with a firearm? I hate that our young people are coming of age in such an environment.
How About Some Compromise?
Not every state can be Texas. Overt state pressure is probably necessary to persuade universities to allow students to carry. Most of my liberal friends are horrified by the very notion. Students are irresponsible! They drink and get high on campus! And do we really want to drop guns into their soap-opera sex lives? Stock up on crime-scene tape now!
Might we consider a compromise? Don’t start by allowing everyone to carry. Universities can exercise more control by issuing campus-carry permits, probably to eligible faculty and staff. The program would be strictly voluntary. If the very idea of touching a gun terrifies you, don’t volunteer.
The university could retain sole discretion over the application process, and draw up whatever certification requirements they think appropriate. Wading through a university-devised training program would be irksome for experienced shooters, but I suspect campus liberals would be somewhat reassured by the university’s declaration that, “Don’t worry! We trained them all ourselves!” Progressives are pretty sure that any “firearms safety course” offered by, say, the National Rifle Association must resemble a live-action outtake from “Grand Theft Auto.”
Many people, of course, will be outraged by any arrangement short of no guns anywhere. When I propose this very limited, tightly-controlled campus-carry policy, they scoff. Why not just issue guns to everyone at freshman orientation? Why not send teams of armed soldiers prowling the campus with their AK-47s? (You have to mention the AK-47 for maximum impact. “Assault rifle” is an acceptable substitute.)
These questions are obviously silly. Furnishing security at that level would be extremely expensive. It would also put a real dent in the luxurious and toney atmosphere that most campuses try to cultivate. By contrast, my plan is entirely affordable and incurs no serious risks. The university needn’t even buy any actual guns, and the danger associated with arming a small number of established, educated professionals is surely tiny.
What about “the campus atmosphere”? I’m confident there would no discernable change. Once the protests died down, most progressive faculty would likely forget that a handful of their colleagues might possibly be surreptitiously armed. Progressives rarely have any notion of how often they’re in proximity to concealed carriers precisely because most of them are responsible people who would only draw in a true emergency. (But if they wanted to establish a policy of banning firearms in faculty meetings, I might support that. It’s hard to exaggerate the pettiness of faculty meetings.)
In the end, that’s really the question we have to ask. In a real emergency, do you want the psychopath to be the only one with a gun? Or would you rather take the terrible chance that people like my husband (a legal gun owner and married father of four) can handle carrying a weapon responsibly, knowing he might then be in a position to save your life if a deranged gunman chooses our university community for his next rampage?
I know what I would prefer. I think all university families should ask themselves why they aren’t demanding the same.