As an alumna of UT, The Daily Beacon's article covering a student group pushing for guns on campus deeply concerned me.
In 2016, despite overwhelming opposition from UT faculty, staff and students, the Tennessee General Assembly passed an NRA-backed bill forcing state universities to consent to faculty carrying guns on campus. The General Assembly overrode UT’s judgment on protecting the safety of their own community.
In other states that have forced guns onto university campuses, students and faculty have unintentionally fired their guns on campus. In Idaho, a professor shot himself in the leg during chemistry lab, and in Texas, a student fired his gun in a dorm room. In Utah, a student shot himself while walking across campus, and another student fired a shot in the cafeteria.
The student group representative, quoted in the article from Oct. 30, propagated the NRA’s myth of gunmen targeting “gun-free zones.” On July 20, 2012, when a gunman opened fire on an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, he had kept an extensive diary outlining his plans, which included diagrams of the theater and pro-con lists but gave no indication that he cared about the theater’s policy toward firearms.
Having armed bystanders at mass shootings adds to the risk for harm.
On Jan. 1, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona, a gunman fatally shot six and wounded 14 at a supermarket where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was hosting an event. It was lawful to carry a firearm at the venue, and an armed bystander, Joe Zamudio, later told the press that he almost shot another bystander after the shooting because they had retrieved the shooter’s gun and he had mistaken them for an assailant.
“I could have very easily done the wrong thing and hurt a lot more people,” Zamudio said.
In recent years, 79 percent of college students surveyed reported that they would feel less safe with guns in the classroom, 89 percent of college campus police chiefs opposed guns on campuses, and 94 percent of faculty agreed that they opposed concealed carry on campus.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia agreed. When penning the majority decision in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, he wrote that the Second Amendment does not invalidate “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools.”
When deciding the future of guns at UT, the General Assembly should yield to judgment of students, faculty and staff, not to the NRA.*
*Editor's note: The group that hosted the protest was the College Republicans, a student organization, not the NRA.
Rachel Kromer graduated from UT in 2002 with a BA in art history and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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