Monday, May 07, 2007

From the "Dumbest Ideas Ever" File

Fred Thompson, tv actor, former Senator, and likely Republican candidate for President, argues that it was the lack of guns at Virginia Tech that we should look to when we want to explain how the tragedy occurred.

there are a lot of people who are just offended by the notion that people can carry guns around. They view everybody, or at least many of us, as potential murderers prevented only by the lack of a convenient weapon. Virginia Tech administrators overrode Virginia state law and threatened to expel or fire anybody who brings a weapon onto campus.

In recent years, however, armed Americans -- not on-duty police officers -- have successfully prevented a number of attempted mass murders. Evidence from Israel, where many teachers have weapons and have stopped serious terror attacks, has been documented. Supporting, though contrary, evidence from Great Britain, where strict gun controls have led to violent crime rates far higher than ours, is also common knowledge.

So Virginians asked their legislators to change the university's "concealed carry" policy to exempt people 21 years of age or older who have passed background checks and taken training classes. The university, however, lobbied against that bill, and a top administrator subsequently praised the legislature for blocking the measure.

The logic behind this attitude baffles me, but I suspect it has to do with a basic difference in worldviews. Some people think that power should exist only at the top, and everybody else should rely on "the authorities" for protection.
So, students would be safer if more of them had weapons.

Mr. Thompson, two words..."final exams." Yes, it is that time of year when we create an artificial environment of extreme stress. We take ordinary people and convince them that all of the money they and/or their parents have worked for or borrowed will have been well-spent or wasted based upon how they do on our exams. But it's not only the money, we are judging them -- have they been the sort of up-standing, hard working students who will gain our stamp of approval upon their transcript and soul or will we use our red pens and spreadsheets to condemn their minds and characters as unfit, unlearned, and undeserving. While this language is intentionally exaggerated, in the mind of college students, it rings true. The state of anxiety I see in students is unbelievable. The tears that college profs see this time of year is incredible. From the outside, it is simple to say, it's just some exams. Study and you'll do fine. But from the inside it is a completely different ballgame. Between the stress, caffeine, and sleep deprivation, kids who are normally quite well-balanced are on the verge of snapping. Yeah, I think the only thing missing from this equation are lethal weapons. That's a great idea, Mr. Thompson.

Of course, it is not only finals week. These are students who are on their own for the first time in their lives, trying to figure out who they are, feeling alone and insecure, worried about disappointing their parents, confused about their sexuality, anxious about the direction of their futures. These are folks who are finding their first serious relationships and feeling their first heartbreak at the loss of that first serous relationship. And then there's that little thing about binge drinking. There's no chance at all that jello shots would be followed by gun shots is there?

And then there are those mental health issues. Few people on college campuses work harder, these days, than the psychological councillors. Depression and anxiety disorders are widespread. And don't forget that this is the prime age for the onset of schizophrenia. And if there is anything that mentally ill teens need, it's free access to firearms.

Let's think about this a little deeper. Where would students keep their guns? I suppose if we really wanted to prevent future rampages, they'd have to be kept in the dorm rooms. Now, there's a secure place. I mean, no one has had a roommate they couldn't completely trust, right? There are never parties in dorm rooms with large number of people who you know, but don't know that well, are there? Students these days aren't carrying a very high debt load and so in need of money, so as a result,we wouldn't see any of these guns ending up on the black market where they would quickly find their way into the hands of criminals.

We have students who feel powerless and stressed. Some cope with the stress in good ways, many others cope through the use of alcohol or other substances, some don't cope at all. We have kids turning into young adults, a transformation that itself is fraught with insecurity, fear,and emotional turmoil. We have a population that is at significant risk for mental health concerns, you know, the sort of thing that was a crucial factor in the tragedy in Blacksburg. It is through the lens of someone inside of college campuses that I read Fred Thompson's argument,
Many other universities have been swayed by an anti-gun, anti-self defense ideology. I respect their right to hold those views, but I challenge their decision to deny Americans the right to protect themselves on their campuses -- and then proudly advertise that fact to any and all.

Whenever I've seen one of those "Gun-free Zone" signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago.
I have no choice but to shake my head at the ideologically blinded naivete of this position.