The Armed Campus

Guns in Campus

You often hear about guns on college campuses. This was the country’s first mass shooting. A 25-year-old engineering student opened fire from the top of the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Students tried to rescue those who’d been hit. The attack left 14 dead and more than 30 wounded. At the beginning of this semester, administrators dedicated this memorial to the victims of the clock tower shooting. It was the 50th anniversary of the massacre and also the day a new state gun law took effect. At the school that introduced the country to mass shootings, students could now bring guns to campus. Bring my camera. I’m going to work in the archives today. I pretty much got everything. I just need to grab my gun. Then, I’m good to go.

I mean now with the laws passed, I carry it every day. I wouldn’t go hiking without the ten essentials. I wouldn’t go on a car trip without a spare tire. I don’t feel like something is going to happen all the time, but it’s just kind of a backup in a potentially bad situation. Typically, I carry a Glock 23, which is a 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. When I’m going to campus, I keep it in my backpack. If I’m going to go in a classroom, and I feel like I might be moving around and not have my bag next to me, then I’ll go into the bathroom or something and put it on. Where do you keep it? I keep it on my hip, right here. Can you show me? You never know, someone could steal your bag or you know, whatever. The idea that universities should be gun-free is very, very old.

In 1824, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the father of the second amendment, banned guns at the University of Virginia writing, “No student shall keep or use weapons or arms of any kind. ” It remains a pretty unpopular idea. In the last five years, all but a few of the roughly 70 bills relaxing gun restrictions on campus have failed. Even in gun friendly states like Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Texas is only the eighth state to allow students to bring guns to campus. For now, students must be 21, own a hangun license and keep their weapon out of sight. At the University of Texas in Austin, the campus outcry has been loud. As the semester began, students protested with their own version of campus carry. They handed out free sex toys, saying they were fighting absurdity with absurdity.

Were you surprised that people were as upset about the dildos as they were? Yes! Oh my gosh. So we knew of course they’re obscene. But at the same time, there is so much more of an inflammatory reaction to our dildos than there is to a lethal weapon in someone’s backpack. Universities are meant to be somewhere where you can feel free to express your opinion and argue with someone. And I feel like I can’t speak my mind as much in the presence of guns. Rules differ by campus. Guns are allowed in the dorms at some Texas universities, though not at this one. Professors can’t ban guns from their classrooms. And to keep their offices gun free, they have to verbally notify each student, so they’ve started posting signs like these. Has it changed to way you comport yourself on campus? Alex, I’m actually surprised how much of a difference it has made to me. Most of the students were completely horrified and shocked when I explained that this policy had gone into effect.

So I had students who were from law enforcement or military families, who know a lot about good procedure for handling firearms, and what they were saying is now my focus in a classroom is – is my back to a corner, so I can see everything that’s going on? Am I close to an exit if I have to leave? All the things that they were taught. I had another student say to me I feel like I’m profiling the other kids in my class now. Like looking around going I wonder who is carrying? She said I hate thinking like that. What I did not anticipate is how distracting this policy would be from the work of teaching and learning that is really at the heart of why we’re all here. What do you say to people who are scared? Being afraid of something. I mean we’re on a college campus.

The idea is you’re supposed to learn about new things. You’re supposed to get over this fear of the other. To me, this is a classic case of it. With a little bit of training, you can get over a basic fear of firearms. To me, that’s at the root of a lot of it. So here you do some of the training.

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