By Jenna Simsen & Lindsay HumphreyYou gather your things for any normal school day. You grab your bag, your books, your laptop and…your gun? Well-say you don’t bring your gun, but your classmate does. Sitting in class, you happen to look over at a fellow student pulling out a notebook and spot a glimpse of the little leather case in the bag. It is concealed, but you know exactly what it is. Had you not looked over at that exact moment, would you have felt as comfortable as if you hadn’t? If the House Bill 1893 passes, this hypothetical scenario could become a reality.
The Texas legislator who introduced the bill claims that lifting the ban on concealed handguns in university classrooms would enable students to protect themselves in life-threatening situations like the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. While that’s acceptable in theory, in practice, lifting the ban does not ensure safety on college campuses.
The shooter at Virginia Tech managed to obtain a concealed handgun license, and the two semi-automatic pistols he used were purchased legally and legitimately, even though Virginia courts prior to the handgun purchase deemed him “mentally unsound.” The fact is, determined individuals like the VT shooter will always fall through the cracks, no matter how thorough the background checks and screenings, in order to accomplish what he or she sets out to do. But does that mean everyone else needs to be armed in the off chance that they will encounter such an individual on a college campus?
Let’s say for argument sake, the bill passes and guns are allowed in classrooms. What are the implications of that?
If there were an incident at UHCL like the Virginia Tech shooting, anyone on campus with a gun could theoretically take out the shooter. In that situation, innocent bystanders could be shot by friendly fire, and first responders would have no guaranteed way to differentiate between the good guy and the bad guy.
Furthermore, accidents involving guns are not uncommon. On a college campus, where students toss their backpacks around carelessly, and rush from class to class leaving belongings unattended, the likelihood of an accidental shooting is much more likely than a shooter on campus.
Accidents involving guns are even more common when drinking is involved. Traditionally, most college students are 18-22 years old and live in on-campus housing, where drinking – and underage drinking – is popular. UHCL may soon become one of these campuses through downward expansion. Do we really want to find out how guns would fit into that equation as well?
As it is now, however, UHCL is not a traditional university. The median student age is 35 and very few students live on campus. But many students, faculty and staff bring their children to campus with them. Elementary school children participate in special programs and Clear Lake High School students park their cars in the lots on our campus. The parents of these children feel safe allowing their children on our campus now, but can we expect that to continue if House Bill 1893 passes?
With the allowance of handguns inside classrooms, the feeling of safety that we take for granted would be shattered. University police as well as students, faculty and staff would have to assume that everyone is carrying a gun. Who can tell what kind of lasting affect that would have on our university? Universities have long been held as places where freedom of thought reigns supreme. Is this something we are willing to lose?
Licensed handgun carriers already have the right to have a gun in their car in campus parking lots. But, individuals also have the right to feel safe where they go to school, work and live. Whose rights are more important?
The school should not have to succumb to an ultimatum regarding handguns on college campuses. There are other options available to universities to protect students from incidents like the VT shooting, such as metal detectors, alarm systems and the P.I.E.R. system (which UHCL has in place).
We have too much to lose to not consider other options before responding with a kneejerk reaction that will endanger rather than protect us.