Although guns may not be allowed on Montana campuses (See “Several Indications of Common Sense on Guns on Campus,” https://academeblog.org/2013/05/13/several-indications-of-common-sense-related-to-guns-on-campus/#more-3089), five state universities in Pennsylvania are now allowing guns to be carried on their campuses.
The five universities are Edinboro University, Kutztown University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, and Slippery Rock University.
One wonders what statistics the presidents of those universities had been looking at when contemplating this decision. Either those campuses are extraordinarily violent places—in which case, this is not the best way to reassure prospective students about their safety—or the statistics simply do not support the need for such action.
In Fall 2011, there were 19.7 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities.
Between 2009 and 2011, the years covered in the 2012 report on campus crime, there were 49 murders on college and university campuses nationwide: 18 in 2009, 15 in 2010, and 16 in 2011.
Without attempting to minimize the horror of mass murders such as those at Virginia Tech in 2007, the statistics from 2009 through 2011 suggest that our campuses must be among the safest places in the nation.
In 2011, there was a one in 1,231,250 chance that a student attending a college or university campus would be murdered while on campus. That’s approaching Powerball odds.
If one looks at other types of violent crime, the numbers are considerably higher, but, in proportion to the total number of students and in comparison to the broader national numbers, they are still very low.
Between 2009 and 2011, 11,080 sexual assaults were reported: 3263 in 2009, 3620 in 2010, and 4197. There is considerable evidence that sexual assaults have been under-reported on many campuses, but there is no comparable evidence that the broader category of aggravated assaults has been similarly under-reported. Between 2009 and 2011, there were 14,094 aggravated assaults on our campuses: 4,798 in 2009, 4,653 in 2010, and 4,643 in 2011.
So, in 2011, there was a one in 4243 chance that a student would be assaulted on campus.
As a point of comparison, in 2011, 751,131 aggravated assaults were reported in the United States. Rounding the population to 310,000,000, that or a one in 413 chance of any individual’s being the victim of such an attack.
But the ever-increasing number of mass murders and especially those that stand out for having occurred at our schools have continued to undermine our sense of our children’s safety and our own safety in what are supposed to be—and statistically still are–safe havens.
So, instead of pursuing some common-sense measures to try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, gun advocates propose that we resort to the counterintuitive and make guns more prevalent.
It is the equivalent of addressing traffic fatalities on congested roads by funneling even more cars onto those roads, or creating congestion on even more roads–, perhaps more to the point, encouraging the worst drivers, including the uninsured and unlicensed, to take the most congested roads.
And, ironically, this counterintuitive approach has created new entrepreneurial opportunities. Shortly after the massacre at Sandy Hook, a company began offering bulletproof backpacks.
Now a Maryland company called Hardwire is marketing bulletproof whiteboards and clipboards.
I am not sure, however, how the small whiteboards serve a useful pedagogical purpose. If they can be removed easily from the walls in an emergency, how does one keep them from falling off on the students who may be trying to write on them?
But if a small school district in Minnesota is willing to spend $25,000 on these bulletproof shields (see NPR’s “Bulletproof Whiteboards and the marketing of School Safety”: http://www.npr.org/2013/05/04/180916246/bulletproof-whiteboards-and-the-marketing-of-school-safety?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20130504), I can only guess at how much the presidents of Edinboro University, Kutztown University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, and Slippery Rock University are planning to spend on them.
Or, perhaps I am missing the point: if a sufficient number of students and faculty are armed, incidents will be settled more simply in a quick hail of bullets, making the bulletproof whiteboards an unnecessary extravagance.