There are three issues that are hot-button topics on this site: topics that, when I give my opinion, I know I’ll encounter a lot of push-back. They are, of course, Israel, free will, and gun control. And on the last one I’m pretty sure my position will never budge, for I see the ready availability of guns as something we simply don’t need in our society, and a major cause of mayhem.
Yes, I know the Second Amendment is used to justify unlimited gun possession (often including semiautomatic or automatic weapons), but that second amendment reads as follows (this is the version ratified by the states):
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.
And I know the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted that as allowing private gun ownership, but why must I agree with everything they adjudicate? In this case, I agree with Garry Wills that the initial clause was meant to justify gun ownership for a militia, and not to allow everyone to own guns willy-nilly (see Wills’s cogent argument in his New York Review of Books piece, “To keep and bear arms“).
Today the Idaho state legislature is poised to receive a bill that will allow “concealed carry” (handguns or other weapons that are not visible) on state campuses. (The bill was passed by committee and sent to the House yesterday, which almost certainly means it will be approved by the entire legislature.)
ABC News reports on the bill:
Idaho lawmakers were expected to pass a bill Friday that would allow concealed carry permit holders to arm themselves on college and university grounds, despite opposition to the measure from multiple police chiefs and leaders of all eight of the state’s public colleges.
The legislation, which passed the Senate 25-10 earlier this month, allows retired law enforcement officers and those with Idaho’s new enhanced concealed carry permit to bring their firearms onto campus. Concealed weapons would still be barred from dormitories, stadiums and concert halls.
If it passes, Idaho would join six other states with provisions — either from lawmakers or dictated by court decisions — that allow concealed carry on campus: Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Utah is the only state with a specific law that forbids universities from banning concealed carry at any of its 10 public institutions.
I have to say that I see no justification for allowing guns on campus—or anywhere else in public in the hands of private citizens. The British model has always seemed optimal to me: some people can have guns, but that is subject to very strict licensing regulation. And there is virtually no private possession of handguns.
In response to this ridiculous legislation, Idaho biology professor Greg Hampikian (who happens to also be the founder of the Idaho Innocence Project) wrote a sarcastic and biting editorial in the New York Times, “When may I shoot a student?“. A small excerpt:
Knee-jerk reactions from law enforcement officials and university presidents are best set aside. Ignore, for example, the lame argument that some drunken frat boys will fire their weapons in violation of best practices. This view is based on stereotypical depictions of drunken frat boys, a group whose dignity no one seems willing to defend.
The problem, of course, is not that drunken frat boys will be armed; it is that they are drunken frat boys. Arming them is clearly not the issue. They would cause damage with or without guns. I would point out that urinating against a building or firing a few rounds into a sorority house are both violations of the same honor code.
In terms of the campus murder rate — zero at present — I think that we can all agree that guns don’t kill people, people with guns do. Which is why encouraging guns on campus makes so much sense. Bad guys go where there are no guns, so by adding guns to campus more bad guys will spend their year abroad in London. Britain has incredibly restrictive laws — their cops don’t even have guns! — and gun deaths there are a tiny fraction of what they are in America. It’s a perfect place for bad guys.
Who’s behind this stupid law? Republicans, of course, and they’re legislating in the face of public sentiment. City Desk reports:
Following six hours of testimony from scores of Idaho citizens testifying nearly four-to-one in opposition, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted 11 to 3 in the late afternoon of Feb. 28 to approve the so-called “guns on campus” bill, sending it the full Idaho House—the final hurdle before the measure presumably heads to the governor’s office for his ultimate decision.
Friday’s committee vote was strictly along party lines, with the body’s 11 Republicans all voting in favor of Senate Bill 1254 and three Democrats voting no.
How much more evidence do we need to understand that Republicans are keeping this country dysfunctional?