Tit for tat: U Gun Battle’s Not Where It’s At

Tit+for+tat%3A+U+Gun+Battles+Not+Where+Its+At

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By Andrew Kirk

concealed carry

(Photo from sayanythingblog.com)

Which came first: the chicken or the egg? The millionaire athlete or

performance-enhancing drugs? The pizza or the university? Sports cars or the

desire to get one for impressing girls?

The world is full of unanswerable questions that do nothing but spur debate and increase the need for heat-activated deodorant. U students have enough to worry about with all the life-altering decisions that need to be made.

Don’t worry about the unanswerable questions, like whether or not the U should allow guns on campus.

The debate between the U and the state Legislature over whether concealed weapons should be allowed on campus has been going on so long that soon enough, someone will have to dress it up in a gown and hand it a degree.

That, in fact, may be the only way to get rid of it. Both sides believe their cause is just and have very persuasive reasons why. Both sides believe the other is being completely ridiculous. Both sides believe the Constitution is on their side.

The debate is so thick, it’s wisest to leave it alone, like the fighting neighbors next door. Students have enough going on that it would be wise to just ignore it until it goes away, like so many prime-time TV shows.

The state Legislature contends that the U should be subject to the same concealed weapons policies that exist throughout the rest of the state. The U contends that its responsibility to provide students with a safe campus allows it to ban guns, even if they’re allowed elsewhere in the state.

Utah has its own share of gun nuts who believe that because the right to bear arms is in the Bill of Rights, they should bear them. By doing so, they’re doing their part to preserve liberty and people opposed to guns are therefore opposed to liberty, the Constitution and the American way.

There are actually fewer of these people in the state Legislature than many believe. Most legislators in favor of guns on campus are more concerned with uniformity of law.

The U, along with all other state-sponsored schools, is a state entity, like the DMV. The U should be subject to the same laws and policies that every other state entity is subjected to. The U may be concerned with safety, but it has no right to enforce policies in conflict with those issued by the state.

If a student tried to open a bar in a residence hall, even if it’s his or her own room, the RAs would shut it down. That’s just how it is, whether or not everyone agrees with it.

Now the state could, if it so desired, allow the U to set its own gun policies. But many legislators agree with concealed weapons permit holders that citizens have a right to defend themselves.

The U has its own police force that keeps campus safe, but many believe that’s not enough. Anyone who reads The Daily Utah Chronicle’s police reports (you ought to if you don’t-they’re like a quick “Cops” episode) would have to agree.

Crime happens, no matter how hard police try to prevent it. Rape and/or assault happens on every campus everywhere. Some U students, faculty and employees want the right to protect themselves with a firearm.

Arguably, the most logical argument is why gun laws are illogical: If you tell a criminal not to carry a gun, they’ll ignore you. If you tell a law-abiding citizen not to carry a gun, he won’t. So who do gun laws unarm? Law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves from gun-toting criminals.

Furthermore, the public has nothing to fear from concealed weapons permit-holders. To get a permit, gun owners are fully educated on gun laws and the consequences of breaking them. A permit-holder would be no more likely to misuse their gun than a driver would be likely to slam into another car out of road rage.

Police officers have admitted that while people with guns make them nervous, officers almost never have problems with permit holders. The ironic thing is that because guns are concealed and there are no metal detectors on campus, permit holders who truly feel unsafe carry them on campus anyway.

The ideal of a gun-free campus is unrealistic. Guns are on campus despite the policy. They just can’t be seen because they’re concealed.

The U’s administrators sympathize with these arguments but are not standing alone in their request to ban guns. Almost every university in the country strives to ban guns. Places of learning have been designated as areas where firearms are inappropriate, as they are in places of worship.

Guns don’t need to be everywhere. Students have a right to gun-free zones, educators say. When U administrators defy the state Legislature by enforcing a no-gun policy, they are only doing what educators nationwide do. Administrators understand that the U is a state entity and is subject to state laws. But they also believe the Legislature is overstepping its authority by asking the U to be a gun-friendly school.

The state constitution guarantees schools a certain amount of sovereignty to ensure academic freedom. The U believes this right supersedes the requirement to obey state law.

If the Legislature passed a law restricting free speech in order to protect another right, the U would be just in defying that law. Anyone who regrets the Patriot Act might sympathize with the U’s position. U administrators also refuse to accept that the risk of crime on campus warrants guns. They disagree that all permit-holders are always responsible with their guns. Gun crimes on university campuses committed by people who own their guns legally are not common.

In 2003, a student in Arizona fired shots at his nursing class before killing himself. Gun bans did not stop him, but the crime did reinforce belief in the need for gun-free zones. Educators believe guns should be left in the hands of campus law enforcement and the proliferation of guns only increases the probability of shooting accidents and crimes.

Brigham Young University is a private school and has the right to ban guns. Its safety officials claim that guns would not have helped or prevented any campus crime that has occurred and guns would have complicated or worsened many campus situations had they been involved. With this perspective, right or wrong, U administrators believe it is their solemn responsibility to ban guns for the safety of students, faculty and administrators.

These administrators are no more anti-gun than the state legislators are gun nuts. Board of Trustees member Jake Garn is a former U.S. senator who has a perfect National Rifle Association voting record. This means that gun proponents agreed with every vote he made in government. Now he is one of the leading spokesman for opposing guns on campus-not because he has changed his mind about the right to bear arms, but because he believes in gun-free zones. Garn believes guns have no place in schools.

Seeing the logic and righteous motives of each side, one would be hard-pressed to ask one side to back down. But many who sympathize with the U are begging administrators to give up the fight. The battle over guns on campus has brought undesirable consequences.

The U is forced to employ its legal team with fighting this battle in court. While many departments are slashing budgets to save money, the U’s legal counsel is spending enormous amounts of money. When there aren’t enough professors to teach every student who wants to study in a department, many are questioning the wisdom of the U spending money in court.

The reason departments are slashing budgets is because the Legislature has not been giving enough money to fund the U’s needs.

Every legislator’s first priority is the school nearest his or her constituents, and this creates competition for money. The U’s supporters have to fight hard to get needed funding. The gun battle has turned many legislators sour to the U, and convincing them to fund the school’s needs is becoming more difficult. The U battling with the Legislature is akin to a dog biting the hand that feeds it.

This summer, the U’s top leadership changed and the future may hold changes for the campus gun policy. Whether it does or not, it seems unwise for students to worry themselves with these issues.

Sure, the issue concerns student safety and a gun may save or take lives at the U, but so what?

An earthquake might collapse half the buildings on campus, you may get into a car wreck changing CDs on your way to class, you may hit a tree skiing this winter, you might overdose on those “energy drinks” and have a heart attack-you never know.

Life is full of danger and one must pick and choose what to worry about. Guns shouldn’t be one of them. Finding a parking spot before class starts and trying to afford the expensive food on campus after paying rent are much more important.

Life is short, college is fun-don’t worry, be happy.

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