Guns on Campus, Idaho Edition

Last month a bill was introduced in the Idaho legislature to allow guns to be carried on campuses in the state, though they would not be permitted in certain campus buildings or at certain campus events.

The Idaho Statesman published an editorial, endorsed by its entire editorial board, opposing the legislation. The following two paragraphs are taken from that editorial:

“McKenzie submitted his bill during a week when campus shootings happened in three states. Mass shootings in the U.S. have been on a tragic upswing since the late 1990s, nearly one-third of them occurring at educational institutions. “The rate at which these events occurred went from approximately one every other month between 2000 and 2008 (5 per year) to more than one per month between 2009 and 2012 (almost 16 per year),” according to an FBI report you can link to at idahostatesman.com.

“The report was published in 2013, a year in which 15 such events had occurred by the time it came out. The breakdown of locations: businesses, 40 percent; schools, 29 percent; outdoors, 19 percent; and other, 12 percent. One way to look at it is that 71 percent of the cases were not at schools.”

There are many logical arguments against not just the continuing proliferation of guns in our society but, worse, the promotion of gun ownership as the solution to escalating gun violence in our society. But, as the last sentence in the paragraphs that I just quoted suggests, however logical these arguments might be, it is very clear that they are falling on many deaf ears.

There is logic and then there is “gun logic.”

As most of you probably know, after Colorado passed some very limited measures to reduce even very incrementally the likelihood of mass shootings in the wake of the Aurora shootings, several state legislators lost their seats in recall elections. It’s hard to motivate people to vote in special elections by using logic. But it is very easy to motivate gun advocates using “gun logic.”

What got lost in the discussion of those elections was a comment by one of the legislators adamantly opposed to any “gun control,” a comment that was as revealing as it was ridiculous.

As reported by Elias Isquith in Salon:

“’My understanding is that James Holmes bought his 100-round capacity magazine legally,’ said Sen. Irene Aguilar [a supporter of the legislation]. “So, in fact, this law would have stopped James Holmes from purchasing a 100-round magazine. I was wondering if you agree with me.’

“’Perhaps James Holmes would not have been able to purchase a 100-round magazine,’ Herpin [an opponent of the legislation] responded. ‘As it turned out, that was maybe a good thing that he had a 100-round magazine, because it jammed. If he had four, five, six 15-round magazines, there’s no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up.’”

So consider that splendid illustration of “gun logic.” First, a “good guy” with a gun” never did show up—at least not in the sense that gun advocates are always asserting: that is, no citizen carrying a gun did anything to stop Holmes in the movie theater or as he exited the movie theater. But, beyond that unsupported axiom, Herpin is so desperate to defend the unrestricted sale of large magazines of ammunition that he, in effect, undermines two of the most common arguments for their unrestricted sale: namely, that the capacity of the weapon matters less than the capacity of the shooter and that “good guys” need to have the same access to guns as the “bad guys” have. But, of course, the legislation would have precluded some people who couldn’t be trusted with firearms from purchasing them, and the gun lobby argues that restricting anyone is tantamount to initiating restrictions on everyone. Likewise, they argue that “good guys” need unrestricted access to guns because our longstanding lack of any meaningful restrictions on gun ownership now means that there are so many guns that can be illegally purchased that any restriction on legal purchases amounts to placing the “good guy” at a potential disadvantage against the “bad guys.” It is all literally like a cat chasing its tail.

So, like the voter-suppression measures ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, this is a solution to a non-existent problem that has been contrived simply to justify a measure that serves a broader ideological agenda. But the “solution” will almost certainly create many very real problems. A faculty member at an Idaho university became a briefly controversial figure by asking whether this legislation would make it very clear whom he would be allowed and not allowed to shoot. It may sound like a frivolous question to raise, but it really does get at the absurdity at the center of this issue.

Earlier this year, I wrote a satiric post on this issue that even I thought was rather self-indulgent. But I am starting to think that it may actually get at the essence of things precisely because it embraces the ridiculous. The title of the piece is “Giving a Whole New Meaning to ‘Concealed Carry’ and a Brief Rumination on What It Might Mean in the College Classroom” [https://academeblog.org/2013/08/16/giving-a-whole-new-meaning-to-concealed-carry-and-a-brief-rumination-on-what-it-might-mean-in-the-college-classroom/]. It should make you laugh, even if after reading it, you still feel like crying.

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