State of Fear

blatently stolen imageIt probably didn’t make national news, but there was a fatal shooting near campus yesterday. A flash email was sent out as I sat in my office preparing lecture notes, advising everyone to stay where they were as the shooter had not been caught. Details were scarce in the beginning, but it turned out that it had nothing to do with the school (no students or employees were involved). Still, for precautionary (and legal, I’m sure) purposes, classes were cancelled all day today. For me, that aspect of it was a minor inconvenience to my class.

But it brought up a bigger debate that happened to be the lead story on CNN at the time: should students be allowed to carry guns to class? Should teachers? What are the limits to security in schools? I’m sure the timing of the story is intimately linked to tomorrow’s anniversary of the Virginia Tech disaster.

I don’t think it would be a surprise to anyone reading this that my answer is a resounding “no”. Teaching a class in which I know one or more students are carrying lethal weapons would only make me feel significantly more unsafe, whether they were sufficiently trained or not. The same goes for teachers having firearms. I may be comfortable with having an armed guard somewhere in the building, but even that gives me the willies. As a longtime supporter of gun control, I cannot support any position that would make the presence of guns more widespread. As Benjamin Franklin once (probably) famously wrote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In fact, if the institution at which I worked established such a policy, I would very quickly be looking for another job.


4 Responses to State of Fear

  1. jwambaugh says:

    I think there is always room for a well-trained police presence, but I’m definitely not a fan of random untrained people wandering around with weapons. After all, I think that motor vehicles are vastly under-regulated given how many people drive like idiots and how many people get killed driving.

  2. Josh says:

    What about random trained people? (being cautious about my use of the term “random”, of course)

  3. brianbunton says:

    Trained vs. untrained is definitely a legitimate point of debate. I’d say no, because training does not guarantee perfection. I don’t think it’s worth the risk to safety during non-emergency times to have a chance to lessen casualties in a very rare instance of an emergency. It’s too close to vigilante justice for me.

  4. Josh says:

    Let’s remove vigilanteism from the argument for a moment (just because I like kicking out legs of other people’s argument at random!). I’m sure you’ve heard the counter before, but just humor me…

    – If training doesn’t guarantee perfection, then we should be duly wary of an armed police/security presence because their training doesn’t necessarily improve our safety (and may in some cases actually prove to our detriment). I actually agree on this point, by and large.
    – If “emergencies” of this type are truly rare, then, in point of fact, no one should be lawfully permitted to own or carry weapons, not even the police.
    – Now we’ve put ourselves in a position where, in such rare instances as occurred on 2 different college campuses last year and many more in previous years, there are none to defend the defenseless. Yes, you’ve created a “safe” closed system where all present are able to inflict the least harm on each other, but no such closed system exists, putting everyone at risk of an outside intruder.

    No punch line. I’ll let it rest 🙂

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