Guns on College Campuses: the Risk or the Protection

Should college students be allowed to keep guns at their campuses? It is really a controversial topic, isn't it?  The 2nd Amendment states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Over the years, the syntax of this amendment has been a topic that has been largely debated, and is becoming increasingly popular in conversation. As time has gone by, disputes have gone back and forth over the specific meanings of the 2nd Amendment because of the time frame when it was written. In the past, more people depended on guns because of the different kinds of danger one would run into on the frontier; a gun was the difference between life and death. However, times have changed and as society heads into the future, guns are actually creating a safety hazard. Places where violence never belonged, such as schools, are being targeted for mass shootings more and more frequently, which has raised awareness in students who want to seek better ways to protect themselves. It has been decided, across most school campuses in different states, that guns do not belong in the educational setting. Guns will severely endanger campus life by amplifying existing risks on college campuses.

Young college students are not fully equipped to be able to use guns on campus productively because their brains are not fully developed. According to Kayt Sukel’s research, the brains of young adults are not fully formed until around the mid 20’s, although the legal adult age is 18 years old. College is not an appropriate environment where guns can be used safely due to the level of students’ brain development as well as their mental health in general. Christina L. Lyons provides the words of Daniel Webster, professor of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who says “due to their undeveloped prefrontal cortex, young people are “compromised in their ability to think through what they’re doing and what the consequences are.” Lyons is saying that young adults’ brains are not fully formed enough to be able to think in a way that includes how the situation will turn out. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is “...responsible for cognitive control and executive function…”. The prefrontal cortex controls how a person expresses their personality, how they make decisions, and overall how they behave socially. Imagine the average, impulsive young adult. Youth rarely ever think of the consequences, and often make mistakes in their thought process because of their slightly flawed reasoning. For example, if a student tries to use a gun, especially in a stressful active shooter situation, his or her judgement will be seriously impaired and the outcome could be much worse than the student intended. Young adults may not be able to use guns in the most effective and productive manner because their thought process is not completely mature.

College campuses are well known for their sense of freedom, but also risky behaviour so allowing guns on college campuses will add more to the risk of campus life as a whole.The average college student participates in the occasional reckless, irresponsible behaviour as they navigate life after highschool. This means the use of drugs and alcohol in environments full of students who are not being responsible by putting their own and others lives in danger. If students are allowed to carry guns on campus, guns will be carried into these already risky environments. To illustrate, say there’s a house full of students who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and one or more of them are carrying a firearm. Nobody can think clearly when under the influence, no matter how much someone says so. An intoxicated student could pull their gun out around other intoxicated people for any reason, and there could be an argument that ends badly or an accident where the gun goes off in someone's bag or pocket, but it could possibly lead to the unnecessary loss of a life.

College can be stressful for both professors and students, and these levels of activity can be overwhelming. According to Lyon, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety have been reported on college campuses more and more. Lyon is saying college campuses are already places that harbor tons of students, many of which have mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and more. Campus can become an even more dangerous place if guns are added to the mix. Lyon also mentions that “...the presence of a gun in the home in the United States increases the risk for suicide… the overwhelming factor is guns.” The author is saying the presence of guns in the home increases chances of suicide, so when placing a gun in a stressful place such as a college environment, accidents are more likely to occur. As an illustration, there could be many more opportunities for overwhelmed and suicidal students to use a gun on themselves or on others around them if the stress gets to be too much. Students will die at the hands of themselves or each other if they have easier access to guns.

Campus is notorious for the impulsive behaviour that is shared among the more youthful students who attend. According to Lyon, “there’s a lot of binge drinking… on college campuses [that result in] a lot of spontaneous altercations…”. The author is saying that college campuses are typically places where risky, impulsive behaviour is normal and to be expected. By allowing guns on campus where risky behaviour is common, the chances of accidental death are increased. Chaos can easily ensue on campus with this type of behaviour if a gun was present. To illustrate, say there was a typical college student party where there could be drugs and alcohol present, and the scenarios that could play out when a gun is also present are endless; fighting can easily become deadly and nothing good can come from using a gun while under the influence. What about guns being used when people are sober, and actually in a real life threatening situation? Lyon provides an example from a student at Florida State’s, Kaitlin Hamby, where “...more than one student [is] carrying...” and multiple students believe that they can be the hero. The author is highlighting that multiple students who carry could feel like they have an obligation to make a stand, but that could actually end up making a dangerous situation worse because of the chaos that ensues from multiple people trying to take action at once, without working together. Because of the nature of students in college, allowing them to carry firearms will only make risky situations become deadly, even if it is by accident.

Allowing concealed carry on college campuses will drastically change college life by putting “a chill” on freedom of speech. On a college campus, self expression and freedom is explored and is an expected part of interacting with other students and professors. Part of that self expression is the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights where it talks about freedom of speech. Lyon provides statistics that says “In a poll of more than 20,000 Kansas Public College employees, two-thirds said guns on campus would “limit their freedom to teach the material and engage with students in a way that optimizes learning”. These statistics shed light on how many different people on campus feel that the presence of guns will put a halt on the way teachers teach in class because they will be afraid to say or do certain things. Similarly, fellow students will be afraid to express their ideas or feelings in class for fear of aggravating the wrong person carrying a gun. As an example, a couple of students may be having a heated debate and one decides to pull out the gun they carry because they do not like something the other said. Once they pull the trigger, they become the judge, jury and executioner on a topic that was only a matter of opinion.

It is easy for almost anyone to get a hold of a firearm because all one needs is a permit to purchase and to carry, but surprisingly, specific training is not mandatory for carrying a gun. In order to qualify for purchasing or carrying a gun, one must go through the DROS process. The Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process is “a system used by the California Dept. of Justice wherein background checks are conducted for purchasers of firearms...also the method by which firearm sales registration information is obtained” (Becerra). Guns are not simple toys that anyone can pickup and use easily, yet it seems to be a common belief in those that want to carry. The author provides the words of Gene Deisinger, deputy chief of police, who says that “...many people who express an interest in concealed carry have not put themselves through that level of training… even drawing that weapon takes practice to do effectively...” (Lyon, 78). Drawing a gun takes a certain precision that comes from muscle memory, which comes from training. Many people actually do not know how to use a gun and assume that all they need to do is point and pull the trigger, but this is not the case because even being able to take the weapon out is a skill that needs to be practiced. If someone, like a student or a professor, attempts to use their gun in a high stress situation without the proper experience, how can they be trusted to draw their gun, let alone use it on someone in order to save lives without putting more at risk?

If professors, not students, were required to have specific training in order to use guns on campus, there may actually be an exception to the gun free rule. Lyon provides the input of Webster who says “...if faculty and staff “were permitted to bring guns [on] college campuses, there should be . . . strict rules and protocols...” for securing the firearms and specific training requirements to “...ensure that legal gun carriers know how to be safe with guns and know when and how to use them when necessary'...”. This quite clearly highlights a way that guns can be successfully implemented on college campuses, despite the multitude of other reasons that support how guns amplify existing risks in college. As an example, imagine a situation where the teacher is not just a gun carrying citizen, but a trained individual capable of stopping an active shooter without causing unnecessary deaths compared to a class full of students trying to protect themselves and causing chaos from lack of experience.

Sexual assault is a phenomenon that is becoming more common on college campuses and unfortunately, guns will not fix this problem. Lyons acknowleges that the talk of carrying guns on campus “has focused on protection for sexual assault victims — a growing problem on college campuses”. Sexual assault is undeniably coming closer to the surface of the public eye, especially on college campuses; Students in favor of concealed carry argue that having a gun could be the reason they do not experience traumas or crimes on campus. The author quotes Andy Pelosi who says that “...most sexual assault victims on campuses know their attackers, so the woman is unlikely to be carrying her gun. And he warns, “If we start arming people, we may be arming the attacker.”” (Lyons 78) This quote unfortantely raises the point that adding more guns could potentially make is easier for criminals to commit sexual assault, rape, or even murder. These are not options that anybody wants to accept or even think about, but by letting just anyone have guns on campus, these are becoming a reality.

In conclusion, college campuses are unique from K-12 schools in that colleges are full of adults and grade schools are full of children. This difference makes the issue of allowing concealed carry on college campuses more complicated because of the adult status of almost all the students on the average college campus. It seems simple because legally, adults are allowed to own and carry guns, given the appropriate permits and licensing, but many more factors come into play when determining if students should have firearms on college campuses. The most important reasons that guns should not be allowed on campus are the underdeveloped states of young adults’ brains before the age of 25 and the possibility that the presence of guns will hinder the freedoms of the First Amendment. It is important that people are made aware of these issues because guns are going to make college campuses more dangerous than ever.

08 December 2022
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