Erik Gilbert, associate dean of the graduate school and a history professor at Arkansas State University, ought to be getting a commendation from Rep. Charlie Collins any day now.
He’s written an opinion piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education urging college professors to quit worrying about efforts to allow concealed carry on college campuses, as Texas has done. Arkansas colleges and universities may vote to allow staff to have guns on campus, but none has done so. Last year, Rep. Collins lost in the Senate on legislation to open campuses to concealed carry whether trustees wanted it or not.
Gilbert seemingly wouldn’t be troubled.
So, if you have been teaching for a while, some of your students (and possibly your colleagues) have probably been illegally bringing guns onto campus and into classrooms. So far, despite the presence of firearms, no one has shot you or any of your students intentionally or unintentionally, no matter how controversial the content of your course. What will change when legal concealed-carry permit holders bring guns into your classroom? Not much. Because permit holders’ guns will be concealed, any guns in your classroom will remain invisible, just as they were before.
Gilbert doesn’t provide evidence of an abundance of intentional carry of concealed weapons on campus. But he writes:
If you really think that there are no guns on college campuses in Texas, or elsewhere, because there is a law that forbids having guns on campus, you are mistaken. On my own campus in Arkansas, despite a strict prohibition on guns, in the last decade there has been at least one accidental discharge of a gun in a dorm room, several students who have been found to have guns in their cars, and at least one faculty member who was caught with a gun in on-campus faculty housing. And those are just people in “casual” possession of guns with no intention of causing harm or mischief who ran afoul of the campus police because they were foolish or indiscreet with them.
Given these incidents and what I know about the prevailing regional attitudes toward guns, I have to assume that significant numbers of students, and possibly faculty, bring guns on campus regularly.
Gilbert didn’t mention one gun event at ASU: the still-unsolved head-shot murder in campus housing in 2010. That went beyond foolish indiscretion.
Generally speaking, Gilbert tut-tuts fears of unhappy events were guns to be explicitly allowed.
Cowboy up, Texas professors! Teach however and whatever you want. Don’t worry about the presence of legally carried guns in your classrooms. If you are going to worry, worry about someone illegally bringing a gun on campus with the intention of causing mayhem, not someone who legally carries a gun in the hope of protecting himself from harm. And those students whose faces cloud with anger when you attack their complacently bourgeois understanding of Jane Austen, they are probably just reacting to something on their phones. And, anyway, they’re too worried about their grades to shoot you.
Nonetheless, law and policy prohibit weapons at ASU today. Faculty presumably would report violations if spotted.