Firearms do not belong on campus
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 00:02
A report by Slate magazine found that since 1980, there have been 137 school shootings, resulting in 297 deaths in the United States. All of these deaths are tragic.
They should also have no bearing on how you go about your daily business.
The National Safety Council found that a person is 10 times more likely to be killed in a terrorist attack, than in a school shooting, and eight times more likely to be shot and killed by a police officer than a terrorist
In the two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a Slate article found that there have been 1793 gun-related deaths in the United States. This means in the last 60 days, someone is 1,120 times more likely to have been killed by a gun than in the last 30 years of school shootings combined.
This is all cold, logical number crunching. It bypasses the emotional and passionate arguments often deployed in debates — or rants — on gun control. But these facts point to one immutable fact: We suck at using firearms. As horrific and soul-wrenching as were the events of Sandy Hook, Aurora Theater or Virginia Tech, they are the outliers in our society. To base our individual actions in response to these extreme events — for example, allowing guns to be carried on campus — will cause more harm than good.
The National Rifle Association’s figures estimate the number of firearms in the United States to be 250 to 300 million. Presumably, these firearms were purchased under the idea that we must protect our freedom from the tyrants who wish take it from our cold, dead hands. With so many firearms it isn’t surprising when an irrational individual grabs a few guns and is responsible for a massacre. It also shouldn’t be surprising when we have a culture untroubled by the thousands of firearm deaths, injuries or accidents that happen every year.
Maybe this freedom to acquire firearms has been worth it. After all, we haven’t had a fascist dictator rise up in the United States and enslave us all — although I would argue this is due to larger cultural and economic reasons rather than an armed populace.
The cultural boogeyman we should all be afraid of now is no longer the idea tyranny, but the crazed gunman — a figure who actually exists. If a bad guy with a gun isn’t going to care about gun-free zone laws, why should the good guy with a gun worry about it?
Because the good guy has an impossible target.
There have been 297 school shooting-related deaths in 33 years, which averages out to nine deaths a year. The NRA estimates the number of handguns in the United States to be 40 million. There are no figures for the number of guns owned or carried by college students, not even an estimate. Presumably, since the overwhelming majority of college campuses do not allow a student to carry a firearm on campus, that number is very low or around zero. If firearms were allowed to be carried on campus, the number of firearms on campus will also logically go up.
Now, Slate magazine found only 101 of the 297 school shooting deaths happened on a college campus, but assume for a moment all of those deaths happened exclusively in institutions of higher learning for this thought experiment.
Do we think the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of handguns that would be brought onto college campus across the nation would result in less damage, in terms of injuries, accidents or deaths than the nine deaths per year it could only possibly prevent? I dislike reducing human life to numbers which can be tallied up and compared, but the question remains valid. Personally, I am not convinced that moving our cultural fear target from a tyrant to a crazy gunman is a healthy move for our society.
I want to live in a place safe enough I don’t need to carry a gun in order to feel comfortable. A gun is a remarkable tool to stop a burglar, but it does nothing to stop what leads a person to committing a crime in the first place. If you want to make the world a safe place, don’t invest in bullets, invest in people. Invest a quality public mental health system so that people who have problems with depression, psychosis or other ailments of mental health can find and receive help. Invest in the social welfare safety net, so the path to become your own person is not to become a petty thief or gangster but a scientist, artist, engineer or other profession that improves society.
The organization Armed Campuses found only 7 percent of violent crime victimizing college students on campus. The introduction of firearms on campus will only make that number larger, a price too high to pay.
Harrison Pride is a senior in microbiology. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Pride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.