Tragedy in Oregon

Once again, a campus, this time in Oregon, has been shattered by violence. Once again, families have been torn apart and the lives of their children and parents snuffed out. Once again, a mentally disturbed shooter had easy access to firearms and was able to live out his dark fantasies by taking the lives of innocents. And once again, our national response will be to send our “thoughts and prayers” and then sit idly by and wait for it to happen again. And again. And again. At what point will Americans admit that passively accepting a level of gun violence far exceeding that in any other developed nation is a national disgrace? At what point will voters decide that enough is enough?

But wait. Let’s listen to the gun lobby. Had someone been armed in that classroom, things would have been fine. But would he or she have been able to draw a weapon without being shot first? Would the result have been to increase the carnage? This is not a Western in which a good guy takes out a bad guy with a single shot. Statistics confirm that even trained law enforcement and military personnel miss their targets far more often than not. By the time an armed killer starts a rampage, it’s already too late.
Even if adding more guns to the equation were an effective way to combat the bad guys, that approach merely applies a band-aid to an open wound. Amping up the firepower is a simplistic solution that has proved ineffective in the long run. It does not address the real problem. The only way to solve it is to work to refuse to accept our culture of violence and do whatever we can to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost to gun violence in the last decade is not the price we need to pay for liberty.

Representative Greg Steube, Senator Greg Evers, and Leon County Representative Michele Rehwinkle-Vasilinda are among the sponsors of bills in the Legislature that would allow permit holders to carry concealed weapons on campus. Adding more weapons, they claim, will make us safer. Most members of the University community disagree. Rep. Steube spoke to us in his office last spring, commenting to the effect that he wished we didn’t live in a gun-saturated culture where the only way to be safe was to carry a gun yourself. Then he shrugged and simply said that that’s how it is. Are we really ready to give up?

Rep. Steube, Rep. Rehwinkle-Vasilinda and their allies are exactly the people who have the power to change that culture without giving up their legal firearms. What is holding them back? Surveys show that a majority of gun owners approve of some form of control. Yet our legislators refuse to take even the smallest step to defuse the problem, preferring instead to impose their extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment upon the entire population. They have insured that anyone who wants guns can get them without significant interference. This interpretation is far more permissive than that of even the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court.

I realize that there is some disagreement among our faculty as to whether guns on campus is a good idea. There is no disagreement, though, among our police officers or our administrators who are charged with providing the best possible security on our campus. They think it’s a bad idea. Are we ready to accept that the gun lobby, with little real stake in or understanding of what happens on campus, can veto the informed decisions of law enforcement professionals while applying their automatic solution for any security challenge?

There’s no simple solution to the problem. So while we wait, and if you feel the need, arm yourself if you must and carry where it’s legal. Off campus. We must agree on one thing, though. This violence has to stop someday, somehow. And it is ludicrous and irresponsible to accept that the single solution is the NRA’s universal prescription for fear: more guns.

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