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Guest commentary: Scenarios made possible by on-campus guns

by Samuel Totten | February 25, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.

As a recently retired professor from the University of Arkansas, where I taught and conducted research for 25 years (1987-2012), I find Fayetteville Republican state Rep. Charlie Collins' proposed legislation to allow licensed university and college faculty and staff members to carry concealed handguns on campus not only alarming but muddleheaded. Collins argues allowing faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns is likely to deter "crazy killers" from attacking innocent people on college campuses. One has to wonder whether Collins has spent any time at all considering the dangers should faculty and staff choose to "strap up."

Tellingly, thanks (or, actually, no thanks) to Collins' efforts, "since 2013, permit-holding staff members can carry on public college campuses if the schools choose to allow it. So far, no school has done so," according to a Jan. 15 story in this newspaper. In that story, Collins acknowledged that in 2013 "he was forced to amend the bill, which eventually became law, that authorized the concealed weapons unless schools took action to prohibit them." This past month, via House Bill 1077, Collins attempted to get around that "barrier." Fortunately, he failed in his attempt. He wanted to remove universities and colleges from having a say in the matter; rather, he desired a situation in which each professor and staff member made up his own mind about strapping up on campus or not.

Collins is not giving up, and word is out he may try to push through an amended bill in the Education Committee. That may be as early as this Thursday. The bill would allow campuses of higher education to require 16 hours of "additional gun training for faculty who wish to carry a concealed handgun on campus."

One has to wonder whether Collins has played out in his mind the scores of scenarios we might see on college or university campuses if such a bill is passed.

Just off the top of my head, here are seven possible scenarios that should frighten anyone who has ever stepped onto a campus:

First, the accidental mishandling of guns is nothing new. One simple accident or mistake (dropping the weapon, grabbing the trigger by mistake, etc.) and a pistol could fire and possibly wound, if not kill, someone.

Second, unless a faculty and/or staff member is going to carry the weapon in a holster on his/her person, there is a better than even chance that someone, sometime, will come across the weapon. Other faculty members, staff or even students could come across the weapon, opening up the possibility that it could be mishandled and result in a tragedy.

Third, what if two or more faculty or staff members reacted to what they believe are gunshots, pull their handguns and mistakenly take the other faculty member as one of those "crazy killers," and fires off a round or two and wounds or kills the other person or an innocent bystander?

Fourth, there is always the possibility that firing a pistol at a "crazy killer" could result in injuring or killing an innocent bystander. This is particularly true on a crowded campus, whether it be out in the open or in the corridors of a building.

Fifth, there is always the possibility that a gun could be stolen from a faculty member or staff person, thus increasing the chance of deadly "gunplay" on a campus.

Sixth, in our litigious society, a university would be opening itself up to a slew of lawsuits should a faculty or staff member accidentally wound or kill someone.

Seventh, it is not unheard of for faculty members to get into very heated arguments, sometimes to the point of almost engaging in fisticuffs. Likewise, it is not unheard of to have faculty or staff members on college/university campuses who have mental problems and/or are hotheads or lacking in common sense. Evidence? Three examples shall have to suffice: In July 1976, a library custodian at California State University, Fullerton killed eight people on campus. In May 2009, a University of Alabama professor shot and killed three people and wounded three others during a faculty meeting. In September 2014, a professor at Idaho state was wounded when the pistol he had in his pocket accidentally discharged.

I could go on and on delineating possible scenarios. But what is the need or point?

Should concealed handguns be allowed on a campus other than in the hands of trained police officers? The answer is a resounding "no."

Samuel Totten lives in Springdale and describes himself as not being a foe of the Second Amendment, but a believer that checks and balances are needed.

NAN Our Town on 02/25/2015

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