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Tobias '12: Shooting for safety?

Clarification appended.

The Texas legislature is considering allowing students, faculty and staff to carry concealed firearms on all public university campuses in the state.

The proponents of this change in the law argue that students require guns for protection — a devastating rampage, like the one at Virginia Tech, would not happen or would be stopped if some students and faculty had concealed weapons. They believe that trained security guards and police officers are not sufficient to bring down a gunman, while helpless students will be picked off one by one.

The proponents continue that the new law would only apply to those students who already have a license to carry a concealed weapon, which means that armed students would have to be at least 21, have to have passed background checks and have to have taken a handgun course. This would seemingly ensure that any students who carried a weapon would be responsible enough to use one. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is naive and dangerous.

College campuses should be secure and safe environments. Student safety should be among a university's highest priorities. This legislation will endanger students' lives and welfare and should be resisted by students throughout the country.

A campus that allows students to carry a concealed weapon exposes its students to severe risks. Even if the only people with guns were law-abiding, licensed students with no history of mental illness or criminal activity, the mere presence of handguns is an unnecessary risk.

Imagine what could go wrong on a college campus. Students under the influence of alcohol, drugs or just the severe stress of schoolwork already make decisions they come to regret. Let's not add guns to that mix.

The late teen years and early 20s are often the time when mental illness first manifests itself. The New York Times recently reported that record numbers of college freshmen say they are stressed. Making guns available to overstressed students with untreated mental illness will inevitably lead to some students taking those guns and harming themselves or others. It is not a question of if, but when.

It seems that every year, some young person with a gun and the signs of mental illness goes on a rampage. There was Virginia Tech in 2007, Northern Illinois University in 2008 and, most recently, the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., which resulted in the deaths of six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

The way to prevent these terrible crimes is not by making guns more available or arming ordinary citizens. Imagine the confusion of police officers trying to figure out who is the killer on a rampage and who is the ordinary citizen firing back. And there is the potential for a protracted gun battle ensuing between students that could end in campuses looking an awful lot like the streets of Tripoli rather than the safe havens they should be.

Students around the country should watch the Texas legislature apprehensively. If concealed weapons can be legally carried on university campuses there, it will not be long before legislature in other states consider following suit. This could set a dangerous precedent, and it moves the country completely in the wrong direction on the question of guns.

More disturbingly, allowing licensed handgun owners to carry their weapons in more places is not being coupled to laws that make it harder to obtain these weapons. Jared Laughner, the shooter in Arizona, purchased the gun legally, despite being suspended from college and deemed unfit to enlist in the armed forces.

While the adage that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" certainly holds true, a would-be assassin like Laughner would be unable to injure and kill so many people with just a knife.

There will always be those people who, under stress and mental disease, go on a deadly rampage. The killer at Virginia Tech murdered 32 people before taking his own life. Allowing guns on campus would not be a deterrent to a gunman who already wants to die. But it is easy to conceive how an unsecured gun on a college campus might fall into the wrong hands.

Every time President Ruth Simmons sends an e-mail to the student body informing them of a student's passing, there is an incredible outpouring of grief. It feels like everyone at Brown is connected to everyone else, and the death of one student is a deep blow, even to those of us who did not know the deceased. Making guns more accessible to college students is a recipe for future heartache. Given the anguish that one student's death can cause, the idea that a state legislature will put more students' lives in jeopardy is an unforgiveable sin.

Ethan Tobias '12 is a biology concentrator from New York. He can be reached at

A previous version of this column stated that a proposed bill in the Texas state legislature would permit concealed carry of firearms on University of Texas campuses. The law would actually apply to all public universities in the state. Private institutions would also be required to permit concealed-carry license holders to carry guns on campus.


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