H/t to @LeapingRobot (aka Patrick McCray) for drawing my attention to this thoughtful request from Boisie State’s Greg Hampikian, who asks the Idaho Lege, “When May I Shoot A Student?” Published nearly two years ago, he explains:
In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?
I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.
I think you get the sense of the Swiftian satire that follows. (Swift’s essay on eating children is eerily appropriate to the problem Hampikian’s essay addresses, which is extraordinary deference shown to a minority of gun nuts in the population at the expense of the majority of us, who just want to go to church, school, the gym, and the mall without being shot.) My favorite is his imagining of the popularity of study-abroad programs for bad guys who want to wreak havoc in gun-free zones:
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.
Too bad Hampikian didn’t wait for the results of “expert” reviewers who, it was announced this morning, concluded that it was completely appropriate for Cleveland police officer Tim Loehmann to shoot a 12-year old boy holding a toy gun within two seconds of encountering him: “Officer Loehmann’s belief that [victim Tamir] Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.”
Based on that “expert” opinion, it seems like the bar is pretty low for “objectively reasonable” when using deadly force by a trained peace officer. The bar has got to be lower for armed civilians, right? Next time you see a student reach into his or her backpack, keep that in mind. We now live in a zero-tolerance society for personal fear, even for people who volunteer for jobs that occasionally mean they’re exposed to the possibility of “physical harm or death.” That’s not what college professors or teachers signed up for, so it sounds like we should just embrace our fears, and let it guide our gun use on campus. If you’re afraid, just light ’em up! Fear is your best defense.
I had a conversation with my students last week about the murders at the community college in Oregon. Then I went back to my office and heard about the two murders at two different campuses, Northern Arizona U. and Texas Southern U. that very morning. It struck me that if we held a teach-in about gun violence every time one there was a mass shooting in the U.S. or gun violence on a U.S. campus, we’d never teach about anything else.
In 50 or 100 years’ time, historians will write about the terrible and needless epidemic of gun violence in an otherwise stable and prosperous country in the way they now write about lynchings of African Americans between 1880 and 1940. They will point to the other developed nations with liberal gun laws like Canada and Switzerland that do not see the levels of gun deaths that the U.S. did at the turn of the twenty-first century. They will quote the profiteering ghouls and insane ideologues who insist that the only solution we can ever consider is more guns, never fewer.
These future historians will wonder why the vast majority consented to be tyrannized by a tiny, addled minority of Americans. They’ll also shake their heads in wonder at the piles of bodies of first-graders, high-school students, and college students who had to die before anyone did anything about it. (That is, if we do anything about it and can ever put an end date on this problem.)