By Matthew Pertz, Opinion Editor
Virginia Tech; April 16, 2007. Twenty-seven dead. Northern Illinois University; Feb. 14, 2008. Five dead. Okios University; April 2, 2012. Seven dead. Umpqua Community College; Oct. 1, 2015. Nine dead.
These are only a few of the tragedies that have led college officials to rethink gun control on campuses. According to Everytown Research, there were 31 shootings on college campuses in 2015, which equates to 31 too many. The uptick in gun violence coupled with a rise in public fear leading to a call for more safeguards against gun violence in already gun-free zones.
Liberty University’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., promoted his school’s free concealed carry course by saying, “I always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in.” Just days later, Texas passed a law that allows properly licensed students in public colleges to carry firearms on campus.
Asbury has maintained status as a gun-free campus by outlawing any sort of firearm, even going so far as to have security guards act as “Officers of the Peace,” meaning that even they don’t carry weapons.
But many concealed carry advocates believe that a college that is designated as a “gun-free zone” actually increases the risk of gun violence.
“If people who are tempted or motivated to commit these heinous acts knew people would be shooting back at them, they would be less motivated,” said history professor Glen Spann. “Gun-free campuses are less safe because they’re gun-free. Predators see the designation and believe they’re in less danger there.”
However, not every willing professor could get his or her hands on a handgun right away. According to the Asbury’s Director of Security, David Hay, the few teachers selected for concealed carry training would have to pass hours of coursework that goes far beyond standard certification.
“There’s thousands of hours of training and some judgment that goes along with throwing professors into a tactical life or death situation,” said Hay. “Even if you kill the bad guy, there’s a psychological situation that can be very difficult to handle.”
Despite this, many are hoping to end gun-free zones in the hope that a more ambiguous title might ward off criminals. On Jan. 7, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump promised to “end” gun-free zones on his first day in office, allowing gun owners to carry their weapons everywhere for the sake of self-defense.
But fighting firearms with firearms may not be a realistic solution. The Washington Post indicates that the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership per capita (88.8 guns for every 100 people) and one of the highest gun homicide rates (3.2 homicides per 100,000 people). Meanwhile, countries like Japan, Australia and South Korea, which have less than one gun for every hundred people, also have historically low rates of gun violence.
According to political science professor Steve Clements, weapons have a connotation that is contradictory to that of a college.
“Weapons signify threats and expressions of power which I don’t believe have any place in a setting of teaching and learning,” said Clements. “Any time you sink resources and energy into that kind of effort, you don’t read books or argue about ideas or have discussions about important things.”
Clements is right; schools and guns are philosophical opposites. School is designed to build, educate and refine individuals; the ambitious can advance and the disadvantaged can level their playing field. However, guns are destroyers. They are symbols of control and grief. The only time a gun can protect one life is when it takes another.
I’ve never had a problem with gun owners (mainly because I don’t want to have a problem with someone who has a gun), but seeing a .380 on my teacher’s hip makes me more inclined to worry about why there’s a gun in my classroom and less inclined to learn about ancient civilizations or calculus or music theory or any number of other subjects.
Both Hay and Provost Jon Kulaga agree that Asbury is a long way off from arming anybody on campus, mainly because of possible complications and a lack of a proven plan.
“I don’t know that a framework exists for best practices,” said Hay. “I don’t think there’s an outline for a best way for this to move forward”
“You have to fit it within the culture,” said Hay. “Arming people on campus is not going to solve the problem. It’s not the magic bullet. You have to have a good working relationship with law enforcement and a good emergency response system.”