Enough is Enough Recommendation
on the Presence and Carrying of Guns on University and College Campuses
In keeping with educational mission and historical expectation, American universities and colleges generally have provided, and continue to provide, safe and well-ordered campuses. However, a relatively small number of violent events in academe--especially a handful of horrific rampage killings--remind of the need to safeguard carefully against tragic exceptions to the rule.
To protect against violence, the EiE campaign affirms two traditional principles. First, it reemphasizes the utility of civil and non-violent expression and conduct. In an environment that is supposed to facilitate the peaceful reconciliation of conflict and create a marketplace of ideas, resolution of differences should be achieved by the power of persuasion, not by the force of arms.
Second, cognizant that criminally-motivated or criminally-insane persons may reject reason in favor of violence, it acknowledges the utility of a university or college police or public safety department, which will carefully recruit, expertly train, and appropriately arm personnel that it closely supervises.
For reasons related to the university and collegiate environment, logistics, and considerations of community health, the EiE campaign does not recommend the possession or carrying of arms on campus by individual faculty, staff, students, alumni, visitors, vendors, or transients, whether the possession/carrying would be done on a concealed or non-concealed basis.
*recommendation does not constitute endorsement by partners
Persons Who Would Rightly Carry Weapons on Campus
EiE recommends that the following persons be eligible to carry guns on campus:
- Police officers (federal, state, local, or university police) who have reason to be on campus.
- Participants in ROTC, or persons in police training programs, where the carrying and use of guns on campus are needed to fulfill requirements of university programs.
A Specific University Based Recommendation; not a General Societal Recommendation
- This EiE recommendation is institution specific; it speaks only to universities and colleges.
- However, it is not entirely novel in that its core element is similar to what would be found in high schools, law courts, airports, etc.
- It most specifically does not impinge on the prerogatives of hunters in the field, homeowners in their own houses, enthusiasts at firing ranges, etc.
- It would also not pertain to university or college members who lawfully carry or possess guns off campus.
This EiE recommendation is informed, in part, by environmental considerations which include:
- Concerns about Alcohol Misuse and Abuse Despite sustained educational and enforcement efforts across the nation by school and police authorities, the alcohol consumption rate on university and college campuses is significantly higher than that found in society at large. Introducing guns into an environment with broad and serious alcohol challenges invites an increase in accidental injury and death.
- Concern about Suicide Studies show that nearly 10% of university students seriously contemplate suicide in any given year. Given that datum, one should create an environment that is resistant to, rather than supportive of, suicide attempts. Introducing guns into this environment would increase the frequency and lethality of attempted self harm.
- Communal Living Arrangements Common living patterns on campus (shared rooms, communal public space, open doors on residence hall corridors) make the safe storage of weapons extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve.
- An Unusually Free and Open Climate Universities are expected to be unusually open to free and even offensive expression, much more so than would be required of a son or daughter in the family home or an employee in a corporation.Introducing guns into this environment could escalate verbal confrontations into physical ones.
Logistical and Equitable Considerations
The principal argument made for supporting the possession and carrying of guns by faculty, staff, and students, while on campus, is the contemplation of the heroic scenario: that is, that a lethally armed, benevolent community member would be able to quickly and effectively "neutralize" a lethally armed evil-doer, before an innocent person is killed, in a rare but deadly rampage incident. However, that satisfying scenario is undercut by more likely and unhappy probabilities:
- Frozen, Inaccurate, or Misdirected Fire: It is quite likely that a well-meaning but inexpertly trained member of the faculty, staff or student body, would freeze, fire inaccurately, or misdirect fire (wrongly identify another benevolent person, with a gun or something that looked like a gun, as a perpetrator).
- Friendly Fire: Both in initial moments of fire, and when police arrive on the scene, a number of non-uniformed persons holding and firing weapons would likely lead to friendly-fire casualties. Ricochet and cross-fire variables can also add to the unintended injury or death of innocents.
- Age Inequities: If one were going to have faculty, staff and students carry guns on campus, for equity's sake it should not be restricted to those 21 and older. Otherwise one would invite evil doers to target freshman and sophomore classes.
- Compromise of Early Warning: At present, if a faculty, staff, or student community member is seen with a gun on campus, the observer will likely advise authorities. However, if guns became a common item on campus, this tendency would be attenuated if not eliminated.
- Facilitating Maneuvers: If the carrying of guns were common on campus, the person intent on doing harm could more easily bring weapons to class on a regular basis, in order to select the best and most lethal occasion upon which to open fire.
- Cost/Benefit Analysis: When the heroic scenario is put on one side of the scale, and the other five considerations noted just above are put on the other side of the balance, the outcome is likely to tip strongly against the former.
Universities and colleges are intended to be places of research, teaching, and service, all of which are advanced by peace and good order. The challenges of modern times may require a heightened level of protection, but that protection should be of the highly-skilled variety. It is best offered by university or college police professionals who are carefully recruited, trained, and supervised.