Guns on Campus
Walker Kinsler headshot - Fall 2022

The solution to gun violence isn’t more guns, but Tennessee Republicans think so and want students involved. A bill submitted by GOP members of the state’s General Assembly in January, HB0977/SB0827, would change the law to allow students to carry guns on a college campus.

While students would still have to get training and a permit, this is a horrendous idea. The fact is: more firearms leads to more deaths. An increase of guns on campus will inevitably lead to an increase of gun-related deaths at UT. College campuses in particular are a terrible place for guns, as the majority of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Bringing them to a place where workload, stress and anxiety are high is a recipe for tragedy. Suicides increase when easy suicide methods are available.

The most common argument for students to carry guns on campus is to prevent school shootings – to be the good guy with the gun. However, this should not be the case. Students shouldn’t have to be responsible for the public’s safety here in America. We should not be forced to become cops, being compelled to keep order. It is the government’s job to protect our fellow students, not random people.

Yet, Tennessee Republicans want our state to revert back to the Wild West, where every man openly wears a pistol on his hip in public spaces like the grocery store, wary of confrontation. They are okay with forcing every person to rely on carrying open deadly firearms to feel safe. No one in this modern day and our developed country should be forced to rely on guns because of government inaction.

Our Republican legislators act like public shootings, such as school shootings, are unpreventable and that individual self-defense is the only response. Yet these same legislators won’t even consider banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines — weapons that are, by design, made to kill a lot of human beings in a short time span. Our state and federal government need to take the proactive charge in being responsible for public safety by banning assault weapons and enforcing stricter regulation.

Additionally, allowing students to carry guns on campus would create two classes of people: those who have the potential to use deadly force and those who do not. The ability to take a life automatically puts one student at a higher position over others. Freedom of speech and expression could become dramatically curtailed. If a non-carrying student gets into a heated disagreement with another student they know has a gun, they are effectively silenced. Why risk it? Even with the permit, not all students are always level-headed and mentally sound. One confrontation about an unintentional shoulder check could lead to a fatal incident.

At the same time, just the appearance of students carrying firearms on campus will be unsettling for much of the student body and facility. Having a gun just feet away from you in class would make the majority of us uncomfortable. It would also be a massive acknowledgement of this country’s failure to proactively protect its students. Arming students when not even beginning to tackle gun control is a gigantic embarrassment of our legislative bodies.

At the end of the day, the want to arm students is the product of conservative Second Amendment purists who put access to guns above the need to regulate and prevent mass shootings. This unhealthy case of identity politics puts personal beliefs and desires over children’s safety. But all rights must be regulated. You have to register to vote, and you can’t yell fire in a crowded building. Why are conservatives okay with these, but so many resist even the simplest regulation for guns?

Tennessee Republicans in the General Assembly should stay away from this bill, and we need to speak out against it in public and at its legislative committee meetings. Our legislature’s GOP members should focus their efforts on preventing mass shootings, instead of telling us they are inevitable.

We live in one of the most developed societies in all of history. Let’s start acting like it and prevent mass shootings before they happen.

(1) comment


Interesting article, Walker! Although I disagree, I think you make some compelling points, especially the argument surrounding free speech being curtailed.

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