It 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.