In defense of self-defense: why campus carry is a good idea

My experience in the media has exposed me to far too many tragedies resulting from high-profile shootings. Of the disturbing images, perhaps the most harrowing came from the attack on a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Outside the building, where an intruder shot and killed five unarmed Marines, was a sign declaring “No guns allowed,” sprawled across spiderwebbed glass, shattered by bullet holes.

One could attribute the occurrence to simple irony if violence in “gun-free zones” was uncommon. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and that Chattanooga recruitment center all prohibited firearms, yet they appear in this article only because of the bloodshed that took place.

The University of Alabama is another one of these gun-free zones. Students are prohibited from carrying firearms that could protect them from the next unexpected attack. The gun ban is well intentioned. Perpetuating the argument that gun reform is a vast conspiracy to institute totalitarian control not only hurts the dialogue, but it prevents gun rights advocates from acquiring any credibility. Nonetheless, the ban not only violates our rights, but it has also proven to be ineffective. To paraphrase the late Milton Friedman, we must judge policies not by their intentions, but by their results.

The record of gun-free zones speaks for itself. Almost every major shooting of the past 10 years has come in an area where guns were expressly prohibited or where the attacker knew few people would be armed.

Large-scale bans can have some effect, but rarely eliminate a problem entirely. Think about another ban the University recently enacted: the campus-wide smoking prohibition. Sure, the campus is generally more smoke free, but the people who really want to smoke still smoke. The only people affected are those who have respect for the lightly enforced rules and regulations.

In a college town like Tuscaloosa, there are practical self-defense concerns. Tuscaloosa’s crime rate is much higher than the Alabama and national average crime rates. We can pretend violent criminals will respect the imaginary line of demarcation between campus and the city at large just like we pretend that they respect other firearm limitations, but I prefer indulging reality to fantasy.

In light of the recent national discourse regarding sexual assault on college campuses, campus-carry should be viewed as a solution. For men and women who could potentially be assaulted, a gun could make the difference in a dangerous situation. Guns are the greatest equalizers; they can make even the most potentially vulnerable victim safe from those who mean to do harm.

There is a way to allow firearms onto school property reasonably. The University of Texas enacted campus carry after the governor signed it into law last summer. The law requires anyone carrying on campus to have the same licenses required for those who want to carry elsewhere in the state. Alabama’s proposed law would do the same. Students would still have to apply and get background checks just like everyone else.

Individuals should have every option available for self-defense, particularly in a place where violent and intolerable crimes are so common. Reasonable regulation and the elimination of gun-free zones, which might as well be called vulnerability zones, would make campus safer and more free. 

Jordan LaPorta is a junior majoring in political science and history. He is the Director of News at WVUA Radio. 

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