Editorial: Avoid dominos of bullets on college campuses

By Staff Editorial

The time to hesitate is over.

In a staff editorial in December, The Pitt News chose to… The time to hesitate is over.

In a staff editorial in December, The Pitt News chose to carefully weave through the issues surrounding guns on campus, instead of coming down one way or the other. Our article addressed a pro-gun resolution passed that week by the Texas State University student government, an institution we regarded as hardly equipped to effect policy influence. That might have been true. But it isn’t December anymore.

The Associated Press reported that a majority of Texas House representatives have co-signed a bill to force public universities in the state to allow concealed carry of handguns. The bill, which would not allow any publicly funded institution of higher education in Texas to “adopt any rule, regulation or other provision prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns on the campus of the institution,” is likely to pass both chambers of the legislature.

The bill must be stopped. Yes — we said it.

As complicated as the concealed-carry debate is, we think the thought of this bill passing in such a prominent state tolls ominously for American college students everywhere. Texas boasts one of the fastest growing populations in the nation — Census Bureau statistics say the state is 121 percent bigger than it was 10 years ago. And since the Bureau gave Texas four electoral votes after the 2010 Census, this country has yet to fully experience the cowboy state’s full influence. Forget Californication; enter Lone Star-nation.

So at The Pitt News, we’re not just fearing for the 500,000 students that attend Texan public universities, according to the Associated Press. We’re fearing that the dominos of “concealed” bullets will fall on public campuses from the Southwest to Pennsylvania.

People who learn together shouldn’t also pack heat together. A legislative measure to push guns into the college atmosphere — despite the wishes of administrators and police — should be understood for the danger it presents.

American college students are finding enough trouble graduating as it is — almost half who enroll in four-year institutions fail to complete their degrees in six years, according to a recent Harvard study. Distracting students further by equipping their classmates with deadly force is one more step in the wrong direction (unless, of course, we enjoy sealing the decline of the educated U.S. workforce).

Even if we didn’t care about keeping America educationally competitive, we would at least agree to keep our campuses safe, right? Granted, the research on the effects of concealed-carry on crime is conclusion-less at best and ripe for partisan manipulation at worst — the National Research Council said in a review article that “the data available on these questions are too weak to support unambiguous conclusions or strong policy statements.” Without reliable statistics available, we still can’t fathom how, in the event of a violent altercation on campus, throwing more firearms at the situation would make anyone safer.

Look no further than the now-infamous January shootings in Tucson, Ariz., where a legally gun-carrying bystander, Joe Zamudio, almost shot another bystander who was wrestling with the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. “I could have very easily done the wrong thing and hurt a lot more people,” Zamudio, who was quoted by several news outlets, said.

Finding oneself in the presence of a deranged shooter is a terrifying thought, but we shouldn’t inflate our fears so much that we shoot each other in the feet, literally.