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Letter to the Editor: The moral case for campus carry

Dear editor,
Licensed students, staff, and faculty should be allowed to carry guns on college and university campuses. Fears that allowing campus carry would increase violence are simply unfounded and promote a mistaken perception of gun carriers.
The hard data is revealing: those who are licensed to carry concealed weapons are extremely law abiding. License revocation rates for Florida (which currently accounts for 1.3 million of over 11.1 million current licensees nationwide) are extremely low. While Florida has issued over 2.6 million licenses since 1987, the annual rate of firearms-related violations by licensed carriers is only 0.31 per 100,000. To understand just how low this number is, consider that the national rate of firearms violations for police is 6.9 per 100,000 officers.
Many opponents of campus carry argue that college age students are more prone to excessive alcohol consumption and other reckless behavior. While this may be true when considering college students in general, this does not take into account the fact that license holders tend to be more law-abiding than non-license holders across all age groups. The common stereotype of college students as reckless party animals simply does not apply to those subset of students who are licensed to carry concealed weapons.
Another objection is that if students and faculty are allowed to carry weapons on campus, then police officers responding to a mass shooting or crime will have difficulty distinguishing the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys.’ But this objection goes too far, as it applies to any situation in which the police encounter a victim who is successfully resisting an attack. If the mere possibility of mistaken identity is enough to justify a ban on campus gun-carrying, then it would also justify a ban on any kind of forceful self-defense measure.
Finally, some claim that guns don’t belong in the classroom. But why think this? It is absurd to think that one forfeits the right to defend his life simply by entering a classroom. The right of self-defense is essential to our very dignity as human beings. Although we may sometimes partially delegate this responsibility to others, we can never delegate it completely. Even in the most secure college campus, the police response to an active shooter is measured in minutes. But when seconds matter, it is up to students and faculty to defend their own lives. And they cannot do this without a reasonable and effective means of self-defense.
All things considered, a ban on campus carry violates the right of self-defense.
-Tim Hsiao
Hsiao is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication and Philosophy at FGCU, focusing on applied ethics, sexual ethics, and social philosophy.

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  • M

    MiguelOct 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Res Publica,
    You are missing vital points to your analysis. Let’s start with this argument:
    “And certainly the limiting of guns in the classroom might remove one means of self-defense, it is not clear how doing so undermines the right to self-defense altogether.”
    Licensed individuals are able to carry in almost every public setting, such as shopping centers, some movie theaters, or just outside in general. Please elaborate on how someone, who is already licensed to legally carry a firearm everywhere else, is automatically revoked of that right upon entering a classroom? This is the biggest reason as to why mass shootings tend to happen in schools: individuals bent on committing murder will NOT encounter resistance at a school. We have a right to defend ourselves, no matter where we might be at a given time. There is a reason why this issue is gaining momentum now instead of four months ago, when the campus carry bill was struck down by Republicans in Florida. People are getting scared for their lives, even though they are bought in to the story that “colleges are safe”. People should not go to school worrying if they might die there. Why shouldn’t we be able to defend ourselves, even in a “safe” place?
    You also postulate that the comparison to police statistics is “unfair and irrelevant”. Yet, look at the response times for mass shootings over the past few years. For example, the massacre at Sandy Hook was over in roughly 4 1/2 minutes. The police were there in 4 minutes. One thing is for certain: You don’t need that much time to inflict collateral damage. You mentioned a “shootout scenario”, but real life is VERY different from what Hollywood shows us. These shootings are done relatively quickly; in most cases, less than one hour. Studies also show that you are five times more likely to be shot by a Sheriff’s deputy (who does firearms training once a year) than by a licensed CCW holder, who trains whenever possible. Why are you seeking to disagree with those statistics, when the evidence is largely against your claim?
    You are also confused over what “law-abiding” means here. Are you aware of the amount of training and education that an individual has to go through in order to qualify for a CCW, let alone know all the laws that encompass gun ownership? I would think that those individuals are very law abiding in that respect, given the fact that they need to undergo a FBI background check and application review that takes several months. Have you realized that criminals who commit these crimes are never “law abiding” gun owners? They wouldn’t bother going through the legal process to commit a crime; they will do it regardless. I would be careful with these generalizations because gun owners are not what the mainstream media or Hollywood portrays them to be, AT ALL. “Firing a gun in a public setting”, like you mentioned, is not a concept that you elaborated on, either. Did you mean shooting it like the cowboy character in “The Simpsons”, or by lawful self-defense in a public setting?
    You made a well-written case, but there are serious flaws with the reasoning behind it. Why do over 200 colleges nationwide allow campus carry and we never hear of shootings taking place there? Why is it always at schools where it is ILLEGAL to carry a firearm? Just something to think about.

  • R

    Res PublicaOct 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    While I don’t wish to suggest that there are no good counter-arguments to the issues addressed here by the author, I do wish to suggest that the arguments offered here for the right to carry open arms on campus are weak.
    The author suggests that the facts support the claim that licensed gun carriers are ‘extremely law abiding’. First this suggests that there is a benefit to having law abiding gun carriers. But law abiding should be required of all citizens regardless of gun license states or views. It also begs the question of what ‘law abiding’ entails. Is it that they have not fired a gun in a public setting? Never had a disturbance call made? Stats can be tricky if not properly contextualized and considered in light of other evidence or causal connections. The stats offered are placed in the context of revoked licenses but it is not clear why licenses are revoked. Moreover, the comparison with police statistics is a potentially unfair and irrelevant. Police officers are likely to have a higher revocation rates given that all officers carry arms are more likely to have to use them. I am not sure how this vindicates the licensed group.
    If this first argument doesn’t convincingly hold, then neither does the special exemption given to licensed holding students from the other reckless non-licensed group. It also holds the assumption that once who is not licensed is more reckless but moral responsibility and gun use are not that easily linked.
    As for the argument over the over-inclusive nature of the ‘who is who’ (good vs. bad guy) argument, it might miss the point by those arguing against guns on campus more generally. They might wish to avoid the whole situation of gun violence and not merely the distinguishing of hero vs. villain in a shootout scenario.
    The final argument suggests that entering a classroom does not forfeit one’s right to self-defense. I imagine that is true in nearly all (if not all) scenarios. And certainly the limiting of guns in the classroom might remove one means of self-defense, it is not clear how doing so undermines the right to self-defense altogether. The assumption might be resting on a Hobbesian like state of nature concerns where there is a ‘war of all against all’. But possibly relying on that possible fear as a motivation for the argument runs foul of being fallacious.
    Again, to reiterate, I am not suggesting that there are no good counter-arguments to the controlled gun/limit gun/ban gun position. I just fail to see how the counter arguments here accomplish this, let alone offer a moral argument for the right to open carry.