Ohio Gun Group Castigates BGSU Faculty for Expressing Opposition to Campus-Carry Legislation

I have posted to this blog several items on the “campus-carry legislation passed very rapidly through the Ohio House and now being considered in the Ohio Senate.

The website of the Buckeye Firearms Association has just posted a long item on the e-mails sent from faculty and staff at Bowling Green State University to legislators indicating opposition to this bill.

The piece opens by highlighting one of the strongest statements against the bill sent from a BGSU faculty member:

“A public records request has revealed that Dr. James E. Evans, a professor of geology at the Bowling Green State University (BGSU), considers the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, to be ‘a murderous terrorist organization that is a threat to national security.’”

Putting aside that the NRA now apparently characterizes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization”—which is another illustration of how conservative groups have appropriated progressive language and concepts in an effort to deflect criticism of their ideological positions—the point here is to take the most easily caricatured opinion and to suggest that it is representative. Yet, I have noticed that whenever anyone attempts to generalize about gun laws after yet another mass murder, the NRA is very quick to argue that such extreme acts tell us nothing meaningful about the laws governing gun ownership. But, here, apparently it is okay to engage in essentially that very same rhetorical tactic.

The author, Chad D. Baus, then provides a very denotative defense of the NRA as a lawful organization, as opposed to an unlawful “terrorist” organization. But he provides a definition of “terrorism” that actually may raise some eyebrows with anyone who has been trolled by gun advocates: “Under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

I have written a number of posts to this blog against campus-carry. One of the earliest posts dealt with such legislation as it was being introduced in Pennsylvania. The post was picked up by a pro-gun group in Pennsylvania, and the comments section of the post and my university e-mail were both soon inundated with brief messages that almost all began “You [form or compound of the word “fuck” or like obscenity] [synonym for homosexual] [synonym for faculty member].” My favorite was “You ____licking effeminate academic.” That one was kind of highbrow. Anyone who says that those messages were not meant to “intimidate” me or to further “political or social objectives” is an idiot–especially given how readily some people resort to gunfire to settle even the most minor disagreements.

Case in point from yesterday’s news: “An enraged Waffle House customer shot and killed a waitress early Friday who asked him not to smoke. Police said Johnny Mount was eating about 1 a.m. at the restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi, when he lit a cigarette. A waitress asked the 45-year-old Mount to put out the cigarette or smoke outside, and he began arguing with her.”

You can argue that this guy who shot the waitress is just a complete asshole, but, honestly, most of the people who responded to my post also seemed to be complete assholes. At the very least, I would not want my life to depend on my being able to distinguish, at the wrong end of a gun, the real assholes from those who were just having a momentary lapse in behaving like complete assholes.

Still, if Baus wants to contend that I am cherry-picking this extreme example and suggesting that it is illustrative, I will be happy to provide a lengthy series of posts full of such illustrations.

Baus, who seems to fancy himself a sort of amateur Constitutional scholar, states: “Evans seems to labor under the false notion that he has ‘rights to live in a world where I am not threatened by guns.’ (I realize I don’t have a Ph.D. in the study of rocks, but I’ve not found that particular ‘right’ enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America.)”

Given that the Second Amendment rights are dependent upon an much-argued reading of the guarantee of a “well-regulated Militia,” I don’t think that it is a huge stretch to say feeling that one’s failure to be well-armed may place one’s life in constant jeopardy violates the sentiment expressed in the opening sentence of the Declaration of Independence that we are all “endowed  . . . with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And I don’t think that the Founding Fathers meant, to quote a Beatles’ song “Happiness is a warm gun.”

But, of course, in asserting those rights, I am relying on the Declaration of Independence and not on the Constitution. So I suppose that my argument is bogus.

Baus continues: “Evans goes on to ask Rep. Brown what he should do ‘if a student comes to my office to protest a grade. Am I supposed to have a gun ready to shoot back in necessary?’ I’m not sure if Brown bothered to answer, given that Evans concluded his letter by saying ‘don’t bother sending me another insincere response,’ but if he asked me that question, I would inform the nutty professor that there is absolutely nothing stopping a disgruntled student from bringing a gun to his office right now, and that he needs to get his head out of the sand if he believes otherwise. People who want to do violence to others don’t care about campus policies or gun bans, but those types of policies are the exact thing that keep peaecable [sic] people from being able to defend themselves from such evil.”

Here Baus simply misses the point. Although we are all concerned about mass murders on campuses, we are more concerned that making weapons more commonplace on campus will lead to more commonplace incidents involving their use of the threat of their use. In ostensibly protecting ourselves against what is still a relatively rare calamity, we will be making the day to day life on our campuses considerably more uncomfortable and dangerous.

That said, I think that the “good guy with a gun” stopping the “bad guy with a gun” is largely a myth. If they don’t surrender, most mass murderers either commit suicide or are killed by law enforcement. Despite the proliferation of firearms in the U.S., mass murders are very rarely, if ever, stopped by armed civilians. A massacre is very obviously a very chaotic situation in which even highly trained professionals would feel tremendous uncertainty and anxiety. When they arrive on the scene, law enforcement should not have the added burden of having to construe the motives of an active shooter—of having to distinguish between the “bad guy with a gun” and one or more “good guys with guns.”

Moreover, since 9/11, police forces across the nation have become much better trained and much better equipped. Indeed, many departments have acquired so much military-surplus equipment that critics have linked the increased militarization of our police forces with the increasing incidence of excessive use of force. Some of these incidents have involved campus police officers. And like the municipal police forces, our campus police forces have become much better trained and better equipped—and since Virginia Tech, in many instances considerably larger. As I reported in a post about a year ago, the campus police force at Ohio State University now has two refitted armored personnel carriers in its fleet. So, it is not as if our campuses are literally or more figuratively ill-equipped to deal with active-shooter situations.

In any case, Baus goes on to complain about the suppression of First Amendment rights on university discussion lists—a complaint based on the assertions of one anonymous source. All I can say is that he has apparently never read the posts to a faculty or staff discussion list. Although the posts to such lists are not as ungoverned as those to most discussion lists or “comments” sections on the general Web, no one can claim that there is a uniformity of opinion or in the tone in which those opinions are expressed. But, even if Baus’s anonymous source is accurate, his assertion that his conservative, pro-gun views place him in a distinct minority on the campus is just further evidence that the great majority of faculty and staff are against campus-carry legislation—as they have been historically and for good reason.

Under the guise of asserting that state law and university policy were violated when faculty and staff used the university e-mail to contact their legislators and when they identified themselves as BGSU employees in the messages, Baus then lists everyone who sent such a message to legislators. Even though he himself admits that some of the messages were sent through personal e-mail accounts, he makes no effort to distinguish which were sent through the university e-mail server.

This is very obviously an effort at intimidation–an effort to dissuade these faculty and staff, and others, from expressing any sort of public opposition this legislation. It is very obviously an illustration of the sort of intimidation that Baus earlier claimed that the NRA does not engage in because they are not a “terrorist” organization but simply a very civic-minded entity.

I also think that Baus’s argument about misuse of state resources is bogus. The Ohio Conference of AAUP is a private, not a public, organization. The e-mails were sent to members from an outside—that is, a non-university—server. Those who e-mailed their legislators simply clicked on a link in that e-mail. That is the total extent of the misuse of public resources.

Furthermore, whether Baus agrees with them or not, the faculty and staff who sent the e-mails to their legislators were expressing their great concern over legislation that will have a very direct and significant impact on their workplaces and working conditions—and that is being promoted by people who generally have much less awareness than they do of that workplace and those working conditions. Why should they not identify themselves as people who actually work on our campuses? Why should someone like Baus have more influence on this particular piece legislation than they do?

What has occurred here is much different than using university e-mail servers to promote a particular political party or an individual candidate.

But if Baus cannot see that difference, I wonder if he would contend that in all of the NRA’s extensive lobbying of legislators, there has been no misuse of public resources greater than clicking on a link in an e-mail sent to a university server.

I would suggest that we initiate FOIA requests to see what we can find, but the answer should be obvious to everyone, and there is not much point in expending time and resources in order to prove the obvious.



7 thoughts on “Ohio Gun Group Castigates BGSU Faculty for Expressing Opposition to Campus-Carry Legislation

  1. One of the real villains in this is Tim Brown, who sicced this extremist organization on the BGSU faculty for expressing their opinions about the NRA. That is really sordid behavior. I can hear echoes of McCarthy – “I have in my hand a list…”

  2. Just for the record, my e-mail message to Representative Tim Brown was written at home, after work hours, on my own computer and using my private e-mail account. I did not identify myself as a BGSU professor, nor did I state that I represented some official BGSU position, nor do I talk about these issues in classes at BGSU or with my students. This is public broadcasting of a personal communication between a private citizen and their elected public official. It is an abuse of the Ohio Open Records law which is intended to prevent secret deals between lobbyists and public officials. I am a private citizen, and I am being threatened (with retribution such as loss of my job or possibly with violence) for expressing my First Amendment Rights.

    Is the National Rifle Association and their associates a terrorist organization? Don’t their actions here (and elsewhere) match their own definitions?


    Jim Evans

    • How ironic and yet very predictable that the response that he cherry-picked was from someone who did not use the university e-mail server. So, you are absolutely correct: this is an attack on a private citizen’s expression of his personal political views that completely undermines the whole argument presented in his blog post because that argument really does depend a great deal on the tone established in his opening, detailed critique of your choice of words.

      Because we are “public employees,” our expression of political views, really under any and all circumstances, is supposed to represent an inherent conflict of interest–unless, of course, our political views happen to agree with his. Then, the simple fact that one of us feels uncomfortable about expressing those views because they may not be not popular is a cause for grave concern. What Baus and the others who make these kinds of arguments really want to do is to do our thinking for us, which, given the evidence on display in his blog post, would be a very dubious proposition.

      He clearly thought that he was being very funny when he wrote snidely that he does not have a “Ph.D. in rocks.” In this comment I won’t restrain myself as I did in my post from asking rhetorically–So how exactly does it make you smarter that you don’t have a “Ph.D. in rocks” or, for that matter, in anything else? The unapologetic anti-intellectualism is par for the course: you are smarter if you are less educated because all that means is that no one has bothered to recognize how smart you inherently are.

      And, ironically, if one looks at the profiles of most who commit the mass shootings, that sort of anti-intellectualism is precisely one of the most common characteristics that they share. (And in case Baus should happen to read this, I want to emphasize that pointing out that most mass shooters express some sort of anti-intellectualism is not anywhere close to suggesting that he himself is or might become a mass shooter. That distinction is the whole point in my using the word “ironically.”)

  3. I won’t trouble you with responding to your entire piece, because we obviously disagree and I’ve written much of my own thoughts on our website, but I must mention two things:

    1) You wrote “even though he himself admits that some of the messages were sent through personal e-mail accounts, he makes no effort to distinguish which were sent through the university e-mail server.” This is false – I very clearly denote which faculty members’ emails came from campus servers and which came from personal email accounts.

    2) You wrote “The e-mails were sent to members from an outside—that is, a non-university—server.” This is false – for each person whose @BGSU email address we listed, the email came from that email account – NOT an outside server.

    Lastly, thanks for catching my typo!

    • On (1), the faculty member whose e-mail to his legislator is singled out at the beginning of your piece has indicated very clearly in his comment on my post that he did not send his e-mail from the university server, and since much of your argument is based on asserting not just the inappropriateness of his message but of how it was sent, that seems to me to be a somewhat major point of dispute because if he sent it from another, personal e-mail account, the linkage between his occupation and opinion reflects mainly the reason for his special interest in this legislation and not some sort of abuse of public resources or abuse of his position. On (2), although some of the messages were clearly sent from the university server, the e-mail that prompted them to send those messages came from the Ohio Conference, which has an office on State Street in Columbus, across the street from the Statehouse and uses a server completed unrelated to that used by any public institution; so, my point is that the recipients who responded through the university server were simply clicking on a link in an e-mail that did not originate on that server, and that action is much different in purpose and scope than using a university server to directly disseminate messages in favor of a particular party or candidate. Regardless, I should have also indicated in my post that AAUP is not a public but a private entity, a professional association and, on those campuses with affiliated collective bargaining units, a labor union that has the right to communicate directly with its members on all matters affecting their working conditions. So, very arguably, if the BGSU chapter had chosen to communicate on this matter with its members, it would have had every right to do so.

  4. Pingback: Bowling Green Newspaper Editor Fired over Gun-Related Editorial | The Academe Blog

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