Monday, June 23, 2008

Feelings. . . nothing more than feelings. . .

Today I had a cordial conversation over coffee with the IUPUI Vice Chancellor for Student Life & Dean of Students. It was a continuation of one begun in E-mail when we both served on the IUPUI ad hoc committee to review the recommendations of the Virginia governor’s task force on the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Our subcommittee was tasked with reviewing part VI-5 of those recommendations that in part said:

VI-5 The Virginia General Assembly should adopt legislation in the 2008 session clearly establishing the right of every institution of higher education in the Commonwealth to regulate the possession of firearms on campus if it so desires.

During the course of some of the E-mail discussion I'd written:
Dear Colleagues:

I'd like to address the comment:

"Do we want to support such an effort as VI-5 suggests? I also want to offer the idea of going one step further and recommending that Indiana Higher Education advocates that the law banning firearms in K-12 education settings be extended to colleges and universities. Any thoughts?"

The idea of inviting legislative meddling into the internal affairs of the University is for me troublesome. To this point I've been reluctant to call for legislative action to force IUPUI to adhere to the State Constitution and ALLOW members of the university community to defend themselves. But to get to the point: I disagree with the idea that the establishment of a 'gun-free zone' on the IUPUI campus will diminish or totally eliminate any firearms violence.

This notion is counter-intuitive in that it presupposes that those with criminal intent or sociopaths with homicidal tendencies carefully peruse laws, rules, and regulations and, when finding that firearms are disallowed, have an epiphany, turning their backs on violence.

History shows that regulations disallowing the possession of firearms are not sacrosanct. The following events occurred in 'gun-free zones' here in the United States:

Oct. 16, 1991, Killeen, TX -- 24 killed when a man drove his truck through a window of a Luby's Cafeteria and walked around the restaurant shooting people as they hid underneath their tables.

April 20, 1999, Littleton, CO -- 13 killed at Columbine High School.

Aug. 10, 1999, Granada Hills, CA -- five wounded when a white supremacist fires 70 rounds into a Jewish community and day-care center.

Oct. 2, 2006, Nickel Mines, PA -- five killed when a milk-truck driver entered an Amish schoolhouse, ordered all the boys to leave and began shooting the girls.

April 16, 2007, Blacksburg, VA -- 32 killed on the Virginia Tech campus.

Statistics show that contrary to popular belief, ALLOWING individuals to possess firearms reduces the number of people killed or wounded in public multiple-shootings. (See Chap. 6 of Dr. John R. Lott's book, The Bias Against Guns for extensive and detailed statistics).

Perhaps there is some thought that by making firearms less proximate, impulsive acts of firearms violence would be diminished. While this might be possible, the United States Secret Service Safe School Initiative Study ( found that, ". . . school shootings are rarely impulsive acts. Rather, they are typically thought out and planned out in advance."

We should also remember that IUPUI is still by far a 'commuter campus' and not a residential campus. Some of the opposition to the possession of firearms on a campus, such as Harvard's College Alcohol Study, "Guns on Campus" ( paints a colorful picture of an inebriated and irresponsible residential population that, with firearms proximate, are at greater risk of injury or are more prone to cause injury. Even if one accepts such notions, IUPUI does not fit this picture.

Despite all I've said above, I realistically cannot see IUPUI allowing the possession of legally licensed firearms on campus as has been done at universities like the University of Utah. It is a very emotional issue and one can imagine that the poison pill "hostile environment" would be used sooner or later. And one can imagine the Office of Risk Management having what my grandmother would call "conniptions" over the liability issues. What I would ask for is honesty in the support of a no fire-arms policy in that it would be done for the above reasons and not out of a notion that it would make the IUPUI campus safer.

I received a note of support from one of the committee members but the rest remained silent. Ultimately the Committee went ahead with the call for such legislation in Indiana as was called for in Virginia.

Today's chat with the Vice Chancellor revisited the subject of "hostile work environment" and how faculty have told her of their fear of students having firearms in the classroom. And while we know how unfounded such a fear is, it's still, in the environment of higher education, legitimate as all "feelings" are legitimate. That's what we have to work against. All our rational, logical arguments are for naught when feelings trump all.

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