Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The first salvo

It's that time again. Every two years, like a smoothly oiled machine, gun rights supporters in the Texas legislature reintroduce a bill that would make it legal to carry concealed weapons into college classrooms, dormitories and libraries. This year, it has surfaced in the form of SB 182, which has the sponsorship of my very own state senator, Brian Birdwell.

As readers of this blog know, we managed to stop this juggernaut two years ago, preventing the implementation of what surely ranks as one of the worst ideas in the history of democratic government. We—by which I mean the overwhelming majority of college teachers, administrators, campus police and parents—are determined to stop it again. We wish to stop it for the sake of our children and our students, and of the academic community to which we all belong.

One important step will be to make Sen. Birdwell aware of the depth of opposition his proposal stirs up within the college community. (Based on my conversation with his office staff two years ago, he has no idea.) My colleague Blake Burleson and I have written the following letter, which we plan to deliver to Sen. Birdwell's office in a few weeks with maximum possible publicity. The more signatures we can get the better. So I am including the text of the letter here. If you are connected with a college or university in Sen. Birdwell's district in any of the capacities I mentioned above—teacher, administrator, campus police or parent—please feel free to copy it, sign it, and return it to me. Thanks. Together we can beat this thing—and we must!

Robin Wallace
Box 97408
One Bear Place
Waco, TX 76798

February 13, 2013

Senator Brian Birdwell
1400 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701

Dear Senator Birdwell,

We are writing to voice our opposition to the proposed legislation SB 182 that would allow students and other individuals to carry concealed weapons on our college campuses.  While those of us at Baylor University are relieved that this bill would not force private universities to comply, we object to the proposed change that it would no longer be a crime for someone to carry a weapon on our private campus.  Furthermore, as educators we are concerned about the effect this law would have on higher education at all of our public universities in Texas.

Not only are the intended outcomes of this legislation (i.e., a safer campus against acts of violence) highly questionable but the unintended outcomes of this legislation are predictably disruptive and potentially disastrous.  Allowing students to carry deadly weapons into our classrooms will potentially change the way we lecture and facilitate discussions.  It may very well impede the free flow of ideas and exchanges which are essential in the academic enterprise; it may introduce an element into this environment that causes anxiety, tension, concern, and fear.

Allowing students, parents, or others to carry deadly weapons into our administrative offices where decisions are made about the academic status of students (including probation, suspension, expulsion, grade appeals, and graduation), where decisions are made about disciplinary matters (including probation, suspension, and expulsion), where decisions are made about financial matters (including the awarding of scholarships, financial aid probation, and financial aid termination) would, as you can surely imagine, create potential risks to administrators and their staff; this would be somewhat like allowing an individual to carry a loaded gun into a court room.  When transcripts, personal records, and financial aid of students are affected by decisions that we make, you can imagine the high levels of emotion which can be engendered in these situations.

Furthermore, it is no secret that our 17 to 25-year-olds are in transition from youth to young adulthood; they are at various stages of intellectual, emotional, and moral maturity.  Loaded handguns carried by youth can be dangerous anywhere but surely we do not want them in our classrooms, chapels, laboratories, residential halls, recreation centers, sporting events, intramural fields, health clinics, student government meetings, cafeterias, cashier’s office, financial aid office, registrar, record’s office, and many other administrative offices.

We ask you not to gamble with the lives of our students, staff, and faculty at Baylor University and other Texas colleges with this ill-conceived experiment.

Instead, we ask you to support universal background checks as a way to keep our campuses safer.


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