Nel's New Day

March 1, 2014

‘When May I Shoot a Student?’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:37 PM
Tags: , ,

The following is an op-ed piece from the New York Times in response to a proposed law in Idaho allowing students to carry guns in places of higher education:

GregHampikianSequencing-CustomBOISE, Idaho — TO the chief counsel of the Idaho State Legislature:

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?

I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.

I have had encounters with disgruntled students over the years, some of whom seemed quite upset, but I always assumed that when they reached into their backpacks they were going for a pencil. Since I carry a pen to lecture, I did not feel outgunned; and because there are no working sharpeners in the lecture hall, the most they could get off is a single point. But now that we’ll all be packing heat, I would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement.

At present, the harshest penalty available here at Boise State is expulsion, used only for the most heinous crimes, like cheating on Scantron exams. But now that lethal force is an option, I need to know which infractions may be treated as de facto capital crimes.

I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip; but given the velocity of firearms, and my aging reflexes, I’d like to be proactive. For example, if I am working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?

If two armed students are arguing over who should be served next at the coffee bar and I sense escalating hostility, should I aim for the legs and remind them of the campus Shared-Values Statement (which reads, in part, “Boise State strives to provide a culture of civility and success where all feel safe and free from discrimination, harassment, threats or intimidation”)?

While our city police chief has expressed grave concerns about allowing guns on campus, I would point out that he already has one. I’m glad that you were not intimidated by him, and did not allow him to speak at the public hearing on the bill (though I really enjoyed the 40 minutes you gave to the National Rifle Association spokesman).

Knee-jerk reactions from law enforcement officials and university presidents are best set aside. Ignore, for example, the lame argument that some drunken frat boys will fire their weapons in violation of best practices. This view is based on stereotypical depictions of drunken frat boys, a group whose dignity no one seems willing to defend.

The problem, of course, is not that drunken frat boys will be armed; it is that they are drunken frat boys. Arming them is clearly not the issue. They would cause damage with or without guns. I would point out that urinating against a building or firing a few rounds into a sorority house are both violations of the same honor code.

In terms of the campus murder rate — zero at present — I think that we can all agree that guns don’t kill people, people with guns do. Which is why encouraging guns on campus makes so much sense. Bad guys go where there are no guns, so by adding guns to campus more bad guys will spend their year abroad in London. Britain has incredibly restrictive laws — their cops don’t even have guns! — and gun deaths there are a tiny fraction of what they are in America. It’s a perfect place for bad guys.

Some of my colleagues are concerned that you are encouraging firearms within a densely packed concentration of young people who are away from home for the first time, and are coincidentally the age associated with alcohol and drug experimentation, and the commission of felonies.

Once again, this reflects outdated thinking about students. My current students have grown up learning responsible weapon use through virtual training available on the Xbox and PlayStation. Far from being enamored of violence, many studies have shown, they are numb to it. These creative young minds will certainly be stimulated by access to more technology at the university, items like autoloaders, silencers and hollow points. I am sure that it has not escaped your attention that the library would make an excellent shooting range, and the bookstore could do with fewer books and more ammo choices.

I want to applaud the Legislature’s courage. On a final note: I hope its members will consider my amendment for bulletproof office windows and faculty body armor in Boise State blue and orange.

Greg Hampikian is a professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State University and a co-author of “Exit to Freedom.”

Some comments:

In response to a similar incident in Dunblane, Scotland, the UK banned handguns altogether, ie the opposite of what you propose. The result was not an increase in such incidents – rather no such incident has happened since the 1996 shooting. So this “best choice” you advocate is not really borne out by facts, unless you somehow think America is more violent than England (it isn’t, it’s just better armed).

I am waiting for a new paper from the pro gun types. My guess is that average grades will go up at Boise State (I would certainly never give a grade below A). This will be pitched as evidence consistent with the hypothesis that more guns, in addition to leading to less crime, lead to better study habits as students no longer fear being victims of crime.

Military training provided me with excellent weapons training but also left me with little faith in civilians running around with loaded guns. Our politicians have lost their minds and forgotten that their main charge is to protect citizens not only from our selves but from greedy interests. There is only one way to reduce gun violence in this country and that is through deescalation.

I’m a Marine, a person who grew up with and enjoys shooting and hunting…and cannot stand this legislation, the fetishization of firearms in the US in general, or the behavior of the NRA in my lifetime.

Over probably too many years spent hanging around in a variety of bars, pool halls and juke joints of various types, I was witness to all sorts of confrontations over pool games, women, spilled drinks, dirty looks and who knows what kind of testosterone-induced anger. I can not remember one situation where anyone wished somebody had brought a gun. I do remember many a sigh of relief that no one had.

In a society that tolerates the widespread availability of guns without corresponding sane gun regulations we have had to turn our schools into fortresses. This is no way to run a society and I wonder what it will take for Americans to finally say enough to the NRA, whose only business is to promote more gun sales.

At a gun control rally in downtown Seattle, a  guy started a conversation with me indicating he was anti-gun control. I asked him if he was carrying a gun. He responded yes and that he had a concealed carry permit. I walked away without a word. Why would I trust a stranger to not shoot me if I disagree with him?

Unfortunately legislatures who vote to pass such laws don’t care about the risk of death or injury when “responsible gun owners” turn irresponsible when they are drunk, angry or frustrated or just plain negligent. Right wing NRA controlled legislators just care about the money they get from the NRA and the macho profile they have because they love guns and the sacred second Amendment even though they have no idea what it says.

And at least another 600.



1 Comment »

  1. Bravo. Or should that be brave-o?


    Comment by Lee Lynch — March 1, 2014 @ 11:49 PM | Reply

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