It's easy to see why gun enthusiasts would want to carry weapons on university campuses. They are understandably concerned, even paranoid, as shootings continue occurring at institutions and elsewhere throughout the country. They say the only defense against a gun is another gun, and it's hard to dispute that assertion.
But there are also good arguments for gun-free zones; even many of the most avid gun enthusiasts agree with that point. One of those places is public institutions of higher learning, where guns are opposed by the vast majority of administrators and faculty members.
The Daily Press has looked at this issue each time the Legislature brings it up. It's been discussed on the TDP Saturday Forum on Facebook, where the identities of most participants are known. A handful of website polls have been charted, too, but those are anonymous. Opinions derived from these two sources don't necessarily match; results of the web polls generally trend more conservative than the overall timbre of social media discussions.
Given those tendencies, it's curious that the most recent TDP website poll indicated more support for keeping guns off campus than for allowing them on. And their rationale makes just as much sense as that of the pro-carry crowd, if not more.
For one thing, while college students are technically adults, many are on their own for the first time. Everyone who's attended college, or has a child who did, knows people this age can be impulsive, emotional, and apt to make poor choices from time to time. It's easy to imagine a horrific scenario unfolding wherein a student, upset by a poor grade, whips out a piece and opens fire on a professor. Other young people respond by brandishing their own weapons, and innocent folks get caught in the crossfire.
Some have argued - again, with good reason - that if a person aged 18 to 21 can go into battle for the U.S. military, that person should also be allowed to carry a gun on campus, because he's proved his mettle. That would be true in most cases, but it's also an apples-and-oranges comparison. Everyone is armed in a military skirmish, and using weapons to overcome an enemy is precisely the point. Do we want college classes to be potential combat zones? Furthermore, what about the soldiers who have returned from tours of duty with PTSD or some other trauma? Can they trust themselves to be armed in what could easily be a volatile civil situation?
It makes sense to prohibit guns at certain venues that draw large crowds and are fertile ground for stress and high emotion. These include places where children and younger adults are prominent in the mix: sporting events, amusement parks, political campaign rallies, public protests, and yes, educational institutions. All of these areas have security guards, or even their own CLEET-certified police forces, as is the case with Northeastern State University. They're perfectly capable of doing their jobs, without throwing unwanted and potentially deadly wrenches into the works.
If legislators are really so intent on having open carry in every facet of Oklahoma life, let them start with the statehouse. When they allow us to cart guns into that august chamber - or at least explain why their "haven" is off the table - then we'll talk.