September 2, 2014

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

PCP: Campus ban of weapons misguided

Like many campuses across the country, the University of Massachusetts campus has rules that prohibit the carrying of anything deemed a “dangerous weapon.”  This is done without a set of criteria that clearly demarcates a college campus from all the other places that the 2010 Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago said were okay to keep and bear arms in.

Courtesy ednewscolorado.org

Courtesy ednewscolorado.org

What really motivate the anti-weapon rules on campus are the political motivations of its administrators, who have seen attempts to bring their own views on the control of weapons to the rest of the country fail, and use the campus as their own pocket kingdom in which they can bring whatever regime of rules to it that they want.

Preventing students from carrying weapons on campus simply constitutes an arbitrary infringement of a right that is secured and protected for by our laws. There may be places under public stewardship that ought to limit the handling of weapons (a courtroom would be a clear example), but these places ought to be few and far between.

Furthermore, there ought to be genuine concerns motivating the ban on weapons extending beyond a political statement. Such a concern cannot be found in the case of either the UMass campus or other campuses across the United States.

Having failed in seeing these policies come to national fruition, the administrators of countless universities have used their powers in order to bring their desired policies to their campuses as if they are self-enclosed monasteries. The recent decision by our University’s Faculty Senate to ban tobacco on campus is just another example of this – the bureaucrats that run the university like their own personal fiefdom thinking that they can enact whatever policies they want without any concern for the rest of American law.

A university campus is not an independent realm in which bureaucrats are free to implement whatever policy they have failed to implement on a nation scale. To the contrary, it is a part of a larger community and the rules of the university ought to be congruent with the laws of that community. This is especially true when that campus is a public institution that ought to not take any specific stance on these issues.

There is no remarkable feature that is found in a college campus that is not found in other places throughout America in which citizens are allowed to keep their weapons with them. However, there certainly is the political dimension of an atmosphere that is hostile towards the Second Amendment and which encourages administrators to implement whatever piece of social engineering they cannot convince the rest of the country to implement.

In short, guns are banned not because they pose a danger to others, as if a ban on guns has stopped those bent on murder from carrying them, but because the supposedly enlightened political environment of college campuses views the Second Amendment as a barbarous relic.

To make this worse, the ban on weapons on campus does not merely ban weapons that could actually hurt another individual, but also prevents students from having pieces of art that are in the form of “facsimiles of weapons” in their own personal quarters. This further emphasizes that it is not a concern for safety motivating the anti-weapons policy on this campus as well as many others from sea to shining sea, but instead a conscious attempt to create an atmosphere in which all weapons are seen as evil.

Indeed, the very thought that one could have a weapon or a replica of one for any other reason other than being an anti-social deviant who desires to harm one’s fellow floor-mates is not considered.  According to the Residence Hall Policies, the very ownership of something like a replica of Andúril from “The Lord of the Rings” is deemed as requiring disciplinary action.  Of course, such a replica may be blunt, as dangerous as a baseball bat, an exquisite instance of craftsmanship or a piece of art that summons to mind the strength, determination and virtue of the characters who wielded it.

According to the policies of this University, none of that matters, which illustrates how the policies were created not to secure the safety of residents, but like many other policies, to craft a culture that is deemed acceptable by Residence Life. Weapons have no place in that culture. Indeed, they are anathema to it, considered nothing more than instruments of death that need to be shunned along with those who would associate themselves with them.

There are little words in the English language to describe just how silly and curiously tyrannical this is. Weapons and pieces of art in the form of weapons, as many of those facsimiles really are, they would argue, are not as essential to the human identity as books or types of clothing. Indeed, many might even go as far as to suggest that arguing that such things can be essential to the human identity would be to romanticize the uses that weapons have. It would glorify the worst in human nature.

The problem with these arguments is that they both decide for the other person what culture is and what kind of culture they ought to be part of. It may be a small matter, but as Luke 16:10 goes: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”  Is it really romanticizing violence to keep a replica of Andúril?  Is a sword always just a sword or can a sword be a reminder of the higher ideals found in The Lord of the Rings and of Aragorn’s honor and devotion to duty?

According to Residence Life’s own description: “Residential Life offers a residential experience that supports students’ learning, personal growth, and academic achievement. We foster inclusive communities, create social and educational opportunities and provide safe and well-maintained residences.”

The banning of facsimiles of weapons is a clear contradiction of the open-mindedness that the organization alleges itself to have. The ban cannot be justified on the grounds of protecting students since such replicas are hardly more dangerous than sports equipment like hockey sticks and baseball bats. To prohibit one without prohibiting the other is an arbitrary use of authority; a judgment that came to be without principles that can be understood and criticized by others.

The policies of this University and others regarding weapons on campus is in dire need of adjustment in order to protect the rule of law and prevent the arbitrary use of authority by administrators. Under the current conditions, the owners of weapons are living under a regime of rules crafted by individuals who see their very status as weapons-owners to be evil and have to endure a system of rules that exist for no other reason than to discourage them from exercising a right protected for centuries by American law.

All of the rhetoric about inclusiveness is hence shown to be nothing but deceiving words. Once a student desires to express any vestige of martial virtue, of the willingness to say: “Threaten me or anyone else around me, I will oppose you and you will stand no chance if it comes to violence”, then he is to be disciplined and that expression suppressed. This is simply an attempt to control the culture of another person, an end that has no role in a dormitory that advertises itself as “inclusive.”

Bearers of arms need to stand up for their dignity and let this campus that is hostile to them know that they cannot simply shun weapons. They are a fundamental part of the human identity; for to ignore the times people need a weapon to ensure their life  is to cast a blind eye to the tragic occurrence of violence in that world. By doing so, one is ignoring an important aspect of the human experience and is choosing to pretend that life can simply go on if there isn’t a force of opposition against evil in the world.

Harrison Searles can be reached at hsearles@student.umass.edu.

Comments
14 Responses to “PCP: Campus ban of weapons misguided”
  1. Brian says:

    You are so right, it’s outrageous that Residence Life considers weapons to be instruments of death! A sword, for instance, has many more uses than just killing people! You could, for instance… umm… er… use it as a novelty bread knife? Show it off to your friends to prove how manly you are? Point out that it’s longer and harder than that other guy’s sword?
    And let’s not forget guns. You could use them to hunt campus squirrels on those long days when you just don’t feel like walking to the DC.

  2. ktabz says:

    There certainly is a justification for a weapons ban. Students riot in Southwest. It happens often enough to justify keeping weapons out of the hands of anybody on campus. It’s a public safety hazard.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not Clint Eastwood, you’re not going to go around with your gun protecting the virtue of the women on campus. Statistically you have a better chance of accidently shooting and killing your roommate, mistaking him for an intruder.

  3. Ben says:

    Guns on campus are prohibited by state law, not by administrative fiat (http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter269/Section10 (j)).

    Res Life’s policies (http://www.housing.umass.edu/pdf/Residence%20Life%20Policies.pdf) certainly could be construed to prohibit obviously non-functional replicas, but they could also be construed not to bar such items. I suppose you didn’t actually ask the director of Res Life about such items (and whether anybody had ever been punished for having them)?

  4. Brandon says:

    Why do you even need to have a gun on campus? That’s my question. I was at UMass for 5 years and did not have a single altercation. Not one while on campus or in the surrounding area.

    I mean, if you take a look at past police reports, the statistics that are most relevant for gun owners are aggravated assault, sexual crimes, and maybe burglary. However, I’m willing to bet assaults and sexual crimes have been accompanied by the use of alcohol. Moreover burglary appears to be most popular when students have left their room unlocked and unattended to. Nonetheless, the rates of aggravated assault and sexual crimes are abysmally low for a campus so large. Is it not enough for gun owners to practice common sense while on campus? Lock your doors when you’re not there. Have a friend with you at night. Carry a phone. If you’re a female, you can receive written permission from the Umass police department to carry pepper spray. At what point do you really need to pull out a firearm on someone, particularly on a fairly safe campus? Should I assume that all firearm carriers are responsible with the firearm? That individuals won’t go out drinking, while carrying a firearm? That the gun owner will do everything in their power to avoid an altercation, first by trying to ignore the situation, second by trying to resolve it with words, and then attempting to contact an authority before pulling out the firearm? Now consider the scenario that the gun owner is taken by surprise by a rowdy drunk. Imagine the consequences of a rowdy drunk getting hold of the firearm and doing something very irresponsible with it. That will go over well. Your argument would carry and lot more weight if we didn’t live in the boonies, and aggravated assault and theft are commonplace in dangerous parts of various cities. I would say that if you were writing this column, and we were in Chicago, you would have a point.

  5. Mike says:

    To address the comments:
    Brian – Firearms and other weapons are commonly collected, as well as commonly used for sporting. I talked to students of Umass from years past they have memories of keeping their shotgun in their dorm during hunting season. Also, firearms allow for a leveling of the playing field when it comes to personal protection. That said, I likely wouldn’t keep a collection of any value in a dorm room, but for sporting and defensive purposes I see a good degree of reason to be able to possess them on campus and under certain circumstances in a residence hall.

    ktabz – what arbitrary statistic is this? Yes, if you have a firearm you stand a greater chance of having an accident with one, that doesn’t make it anywhere close to statistically likely to occur. With regard to being more likely to be hurt by a firearm than to defend your life with one, that “conclusion” is poorly reached in many ways.

    Brandon – Glad to know you weren’t assaulted on campus, plenty of other people have been, as well as to and from campus (at which point they can’t practically be armed as they are in between a destination where they cannot legally posess a firearm) I’m glad you’re “willing to bet” certain things about various crimes, and use that logic to argue for restrictions on people being able to defend themselves, you fit in with many others who “make the rules” in this great state.

    Mike

  6. Brandon says:

    @Mike

    Actually, there is quite a bit more to contend with in my post, but thanks for picking two points and believing you’ve settled the discussion. This is intended to be an open dialogue and I’m open to rediscuss my perspective.

    I agree that my experience is anecdotal, and thus may not accurately portray life on campus for another individual. However, I’m mostly comparing my experience on campus with the available statistics released by the UMass police department. Crime rates are broken down, year by year, and reported incidents, particularly sexual crimes and aggravated assault, are surprisingly low for such a large campus. Thus, I would argue that my experience of being assault free is generally the standard while on campus, as crime rates associated with aggravated assault and sexual crimes on campus are exceptionally low.
    Now, it is an unfortunate fact that a small percentage of the Umass population is subject to aggravated assault and sexual crimes. I have had a friend that attacked while walking by himself from Puffton back to UMass. A good guy who was a tutor with me at the library. He was a victim of a senseless attack by a group of drunk BU students. However, I’m not entirely sure if a gun would have been the solution, or if pulling a firearm out against 4-5 excessively drunk big guys would just have made matters far worse. Certainly, gun protection can be very effective with a one-on-one encounter, but I feel becomes increasingly dangerous with larger groups present.
    Personally, I don’t see the benefit of arming students fresh out of high school, or with a year or two of college under their belt. You may be responsible with a firearm, but I would feel uncomfortable knowing someone as young as 18 has access to such a weapon on campus. If someone cannot handle the responsibility of regularly attending classes or holding their alcohol, how should I feel certain that the same individual can handle the responsibility of owning a firearm? I don’t think that arming students will reduce the frequency of petty and violent crime. Students are still going to make mistakes. Adding firearms to the equation with novice gun owners could only make the crimes that do occur severely worse for both parties involved. I think in the circumstance of on-campus violence, it is more practical to avoid altercations by exercising common sense than to carry a loaded firearm.

  7. Guns or Butter says:

    The maturity argument is a bit of a farce. If a student can’t handle a firearm at 18, as it deals with the life and liberty of others perhaps they can’t handle sex at 18, in which they can have a child which also has profound impacts on the life and liberty of others (primarily their child, but also the state, their parents, friends, etc.)

    As for the ban though, it is a good idea as many students (mostly those who have never been around a gun understanding they are tools, not weapons) cannot handle the concept and it threatens them. This is hostile to the work environment. In addition there are too many variables that cannot be controlled for securing a gun on campus as opposed to a truly private residence.

    As for Ben, Reslife is a tremendous waste. They should be banned along with the guns, though Hull is probably packing heat himself since he seems to blatantly disregard all laws already.

  8. Mike says:

    Brandon, the thing you have to realize is nobody is advocating arming students who would otherwise not be armed, they are advocating for allowing students who already have experience/access to/carry firearms in their day to day life, to have that extended to the time they spend on campus. Not many people carry firearms in their day to day life, the few who do should be allowed to while attending class as well. Also, in Massachusetts, being 21 is a prerequisite to getting a license to carry. Yes some long guns can be owned by those under 21, but they can’t be carried. If students were permitted to carry guns, its not like the entire student body would be arming themselves.

    I carry a firearm in my day to day life, I highly doubt I will ever need it, but it is not an inconvenience to me, I am proficient with it, so why not afford myself that extra layer of protection? How is it logical that I am permitted to carry my firearm anywhere in the state with few exceptions, one of which is in the small city of Umass (and as a result to and from and any stops between)? It’s not. Criminals, as we see time and time again at Umass, it was even mentioned in this article, don’t care about the rules. At least afford students who want to the right to protect themselves.

    If you are scared of firearms or have friends who are scared of them, I believe Umass has a gun club now and I heard they offer a safety course at the UMPD building, maybe you should get in touch with them.

    All these comments about guns creating a “hostile” environment, concealed means concealed, people would likely not be the wiser. Also, I doubt you would have more than 100 of the 25000 students carrying on any regular basis. The school would not be a hostile wild west like place any more than the rest of the time you walk around Massachusetts and likely never have noticed a non-leo carrying a gun.

    I doubt I will see this law overturned in Mass during my student career, but I will remain hopeful.

    Mike

  9. mason says:

    Sometimes I wonder how low our admission standards are.

  10. Mike says:

    I agree Mason, you’d think an educated youth would all be able to step back and look at the bigger picture. Knee-jerk reactions don’t help anyone.

  11. Brandon says:

    @Mike

    You make some good points. Honestly, I would feel comfortable with you having a concealed firearm on campus. I made the mistake of not doing some background research on gun licensing laws in Massachusetts. Furthermore, I believe what you said is valid. It is important for granting students that want the additional protection the right to carry a firearm on campus. I don’t think students accustomed to carrying a firearm would act any different if the right were extended to campus. Although, the idea of owning and carrying a firearm while on a relatively safe campus still sounds foreign to me. I can’t imagine meeting with professors, working on campus, or attending class while carrying a loaded firearm. To me, it just seems unnecessary. Of course, this is coming from an individual where the idea of owning a firearm or using extreme force is foreign, since I can think of few circumstances where I would require the use of such stopping power on a campus that I perceive as safe. I think your perspective is worth exploring, and I’ll be sure to keep an open mind in the future about gun policy.

    @Mason

    If you’re wondering, I graduated as one of the top in my major while actively participating in two separate research projects. Moreover, I was a tutor and supplemental instructor for several semesters at the library. Now, I work for a national laboratory. Having a difference in opinion is natural over a controversial topic. It is important to maintain a dialogue, so that the uninformed and perhaps also in my case, those who overreact, can learn. So please, either participate in the discussion or don’t. Taking a jab at the admission standards of the University because of my, or other comments that were at odds with your opinion is frankly classless, shallow, and pathetic. In that spirit, I commend Mike for remaining civil.

  12. Mike says:

    @Brandon

    I appreciate you stepping back to take a look from my perspective. I don’t feel like having a firearm on me at all (possible) times is excessive. The most likely “higher level” of force I am ever to come across in my day to day life as a civilian can easily be equalized with what I carry on my hip with little additional effort. I feel walking around with a rifle would be (for me) excessive, as practically speaking, I am not likely to be placed against a rifle as a civilian (though anything is possible, and I certainly respect peoples right to carry a rifle should they desire to do so).

    History shows us that on and around college campuses, however safe, firearms have been used for malice, usually in sporadic instances. I doubt anything will ever happen at Umass, but I am not naive enough to think it is impossible. The UMPD is exceptionally well trained, but they don’t have the resources to be every place, in every classroom, at once. I feel making what is effectively a small city a “gun free zone” for the extra helping hand that is everywhere else in the United States, puts the campus at a disadvantage security wise.

    Having armed students would in no definite way insure terrible things couldn’t happen, but I am convinced it could significantly decrease the chances of a catastrophe being successful. Others will argue baselessly that I am incorrect. The fact of the matter is millions of Americans carry guns with few incidents. Some may say that the slight chance of an accident, which undeniably exists as with any tool, negates any positive outcome. I would argue, that just as in society as a hole, the amount of lives guns save in cases of self protection largely outweigh the harm they cause in cases of accidents and in acts of sporadic violence. Daily, there are reported cases of people savings their lives and other lives with their personal firearms, and countless others that are unreported as they end as non-incidents. Media bias tends to hide this, but it is true (for example the man who shot the patient who was stabbing a doctor at MGH)

    I think we could greatly benefit from people taking a step back and looking at this with their prejudices off the table, which admittedly is difficult if you were raised in a gun phobic environment, which is only perpetuated by attitudes in academia.

    Mike

  13. mason says:

    I would have applied intellectual reasoning to my criticism of the op-ed piece; but I couldn’t think of any Lord of the Rings analogies to stultify my argument.

  14. Brandon says:

    Although, I must admit the Lord of the Rings analogy in the op-ed………yeah, I see your point.

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