Why Campus Carry Gun Laws Scare Me (and my son)
On October 2, 2015, I had a conversation with my three year old son that started like most conversations, but the way it ended left me stunned. Here’s what happened…
At least once a day, Sesame tells me that he’s scared of the dark and every day I tell him it’s okay to be a little scared, but that mommy and daddy are here and we won’t let anything to him. On the morning of October 2nd, he said he was scared and before I could finish my usual statement he said, “you won’t let anything happen to me.” I replied yes and then he said “mommy, I don’t want anything to happen to you either.” I said “huh?” and he said “at work mommy.”
For those who do not know, I teach freshmen composition courses a couple evenings a week. The day before this conversation, a gunman opened fire on campus at Umpqua in Oregon. The shooting happened hours before I was scheduled to teach. I had very little time to process what happened and manage my own anxiety before heading to campus. I talked about the shooting in a low tone with my husband as they dropped me off to school, and then again early the next morning. I did not think my three-year old son was listening… I was wrong.
While I wanted to tell my son that he did not need to worry about me when I’m at work, I could not say that without feeling like a liar. Instead, I told him that mommy will try to stay safe and then distracted him with an activity. His words rang in my ear all day, as I tried desperately to quiet the anxiety I feel every time I deal with a disgruntled student, which seems to be more and more often lately. However, one week later, two more universities experienced shootings on the exact same day– Texas Southern University and Northern Arizona University and once again there were hushed conversations, but this time I made sure Sesame was no where around.
So, why am I just now sharing this story? Because Georgia legislators are preparing to vote on whether or not we need to allow campus carry. One of my former colleagues wrote a wonderful argument against the campus carry from the professor perspective, and I agree with so much of it. Particularly this section:
Each college and university in Georgia has policies designed to promote student health and safety so that men and women can focus on their studies while on campus. Although these policies may restrict what students can carry around with them or where they can go and when and with whom, these rules are not meant to limit rights; they are designed to create an environment in which students can peacefully study, develop critical thinking skills, expand their employment options, build lifelong friendships, learn from mentors, and become more engaged members of society.
Instead of increasing the potential for tragedy by increasing access to firearms on our campuses, let’s develop initiatives that we know will create a safer learning environment for our students — programs and policies that encourage consistent reporting of sexual assaults, that promote dialogue about healthy relationships and consent, that outline ways to handle the acute stress of college life, and that help students, faculty, and staff identify and treat anxiety and depression.
I’d also like to add that my campus has experienced several armed robberies in the campus library this school year. They have gotten so bad that our library is now on lockdown and you must have a campus identification card in order to gain entrance. For weeks I avoided the floors where the robberies were happening despite needing to pick up books for my dissertation research. How is the university going to prevent these sort of robberies if we allow campus carry? How do we determine the “good gun carriers” from the “bad ones?” I won’t even start asking about the types of discrimination that will come into play for young Black men exercising their campus carry rights. If our campuses are struggling to prevent armed robberies in the library, how in the world are they going to create protocols for handling lawful campus gun carry?
Georgia Lawmakers: How do you intend to make sure underpaid and overworked college instructors feel safe doing the hard work of pushing our students pass their comfort zones when our lives may very well be at stake? Better yet, how do you suggest I respond to my son’s worries about mommy going to work and coming home safely?
If you’re in the Georgia area, you can contact your legislators here