Guest Editorial: Permitting guns on campus is unsafe, disruptive to learning


On July 1, 2017, Kansas State will join other Kansas universities in a radical new experiment: inviting unregulated firearms onto its campuses. Sure, eight other states’ universities (most recently, Texas) are now legally required to welcome guns into their midst. But Kansas is different. To carry a gun in Kansas, you do not need to learn how to use the weapon. You require no license, no permit, no background check.

To get a gun in Kansas, you need only a heartbeat and a credit card. Currently, you also need to be 21, though our legislature has proposed lowering the age to 18.

Just how dangerous is bringing untrained gun owners’ unlicensed guns into classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, faculty offices, dining facilities, lecture halls, counseling services and the K-State Student Union?

Let me put it this way: The U.S. military does not allow guns in its barracks. The U.S. military does not allow guns in its classrooms (unless the class is actually on how to use those guns). When responsible professionals prohibit guns from their campuses, you have to wonder why we invite anyone to arrive on our campus armed and untrained.

Advocates of campus carry will tell you that armed students make the campus safer because only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. They are dead wrong. Untrained gun owners are ill-equipped to respond to such emergencies. It’s one thing to hit a target on a firing range, and quite another to hit a moving target who is firing at you and your classmates.

Also, in active-shooter situations, first responders are trained to shoot all people holding weapons as they cannot know who is the aggressor and who is the defender. As The New York Times observed last year, “Concealed carry does not transform ordinary citizens into superheroes. Rather, it compounds the risks to innocent lives.”

In addition to increasing the risk of suicide and fatal accident, armed students make other students uncomfortable and squelch debate. A university should be a safe place where students can discuss important but uncomfortable subjects, where they can engage in vigorous exchanges of ideas. Campus carry changes this dynamic: When every student is a student with a potential gun, an unspoken threat revokes the safety that sustains freedom of speech.

If this troubles you, then please speak up before it is too late. Our legislature and governor created these laws; they can also change them. The particular law that needs changing is called the “Personal and Family Protection Act.” (No, I’m not joking, that’s really its name.) Contact the governor. Contact your local representative. Register to vote. On Sept. 27 at 5:15 p.m., come to the Kansans Against Campus Carry meeting in the Ecumenical Campus Ministry building. And, on Nov. 8, vote.

Philip Nel is University Distinguished Professor of English.

  • garybachman

    As an educator, I recognize that this is a complicated debate, but I am appalled by the narrow minded and fanatical embrace of seemingly simple solutions (like the unrestricted carrying of firearms anytime and anywhere, or the total banning of firearms everywhere) by otherwise bright and intelligent people. And that’s a fair part of why I don’t want anyone bringing firearms into my classroom.

    Concealed carry proponents can certainly argue THEIR right to self-defense. But let me offer an opposing perspective: What about their teachers and classmates “right to life,” (threatened by perhaps well intended people who may not understand the nature of any particular threat) “liberty” (intimidated and silenced by armed class mates who may possibly see my politics, sexual orientation or religion, as a threat) and “the pursuit of happiness” squashed by the implicit sense of threat and dread provoked by the arming of classmates and faculty against any potential, anonymous, unidentified, and as yet only a speculative threat. Who wins when ones’ rights violate anothers?

    Through my 25+ years of experience as a trauma center social worker, I grew accustomed to the reality that it was firearms in the hands of the upset, the frightened, the misinformed, and hateful or in the hands of innocent children, which killed and maimed: piercing flesh and destroying lives, families and communities. Shootings by anonymous strangers were in
    reality, the least common source of victims. And those who sought suicide with a firearm, rarely made it to the ER… Our sudden focus upon the “mentally ill,” is in its own right, insane: individuals living with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of gun violence
    than perpetrators. Our modern technology combined with ease of access and a well-orchestrated NRA marketing scheme under the guise of Constitutional privilege, all combine to sustain a fatal vision for our future and our nation.

    Through-out my professional life, I’ve personally worked with more than a couple
    hundred families as they awaited the fate of their loved ones. Each struck
    down, somehow, by a bullet from a firearm, often one purchased for safety’s
    sake. Some of those children died, some
    suffered permanent disfigurement, others, the fortunate others, came away
    relatively unscathed. But it was never easy and it never got easier. I pray that you will never have to
    experience the horror of getting that call. Or giving that news.

    When I reduce all of my own opposition
    (to the proliferation of high capacity – rapid fire weaponry, campus concealed
    carry and the arming of educators) down to its essence, there are two key
    elements that remain; one, the blood
    and horror I have personally SEEN and experienced and; two, the sense that
    there is a better, smarter, larger, more meaningful solution to violence in our
    society. From the depth of my soul is
    the belief that to give-in to the fear and to resign ourselves to carrying
    concealed firearms or high-powered assault style weapons (as a solution too
    and) in anticipation of any uncertain threat, is a personal and societal
    failure of grand scale. It’s a short cut
    that doesn’t remotely address the core issues.

    In church recently, our opening hymn included the verse,

    “God, teach us peacemaking in every role.
    In each relationship make peace our goal.
    Yet give us insight that keeps us aware
    Justice and mercy in balance to share.”

    Insight and awareness is invaluable. That is what we should be arming our students and faculty with. Not Glocks and Rugers and Smith & Wesson’s.

    I graduated from K-State in 1975. I paid a portion of my tuition with money earned as the manager of the gun department in a sporting goods store. Other funds came through the GI Bill. And I’ve owned and used firearms for over 50 years. I also remember an evening in Haymaker Hall, the night before Pheasant season opened when the guy in the next room accidentally blew his roommates pillow into a downy hell when he accidentally discharged his Winchester 1400. (The roommate had just gotten up to answer a phone call.) To be clear, I’m not anti-gun. I am, anti-stupid.

    Gary E. Bachman MSSW
    Associate Professor of Social Work
    Park University, Parkville, Missouri

    • Michael McGlynn

      Thank you so much for your heartfelt response to Prof. Nel’s editorial. You’ve stated quite eloquently what I’ve been struggling to articulate. We need to change the conversation, as you did, and talk about what’s really at stake here. Not some “speculative threat”, but the real dangers that are posed by unfettered access to firearms. We’re better than this.

      Michael McGlynn
      Associate Professor of Architecture
      Kansas State University

      • Thank you both for your comments! I appreciate you taking the time to contribute to the discussion!

    • Jonathan Porter

      The problem with this appeal is that it is emotional and lacking substance. There is plenty of evidence of the benefits of ‘unfettered’ gun ownership. Million or more defensive gun uses annually, Utah not having mass shootings and so on. Where countries with super strict gun laws have the highest per capita murder rates and brutal governmental rule.

  • Colby Butler

    You have to go through a background check when you purchase a firearm. Obviously Philip Nel is not a gun person. Which is his right. However, when you write an article you should know all the facts. Philip is incorrect when he says people are dead wrong when they say only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy. The LEO’s use guns to stop bad guys with guns as well as all the cases when regular civilians use their guns to stop criminals. I urge him to do the research on that. He is correct when he said LE is going clear the building and ask questions later but most people are not going to leave the room they are in to seek out the a shooter, but if the shooter comes in then they are armed and can return fire and not just be a sitting duck. He was probably one of those people that thought that the streets would turn red when Kansas did away with on licensed concealed carry. Well Philip that has not been the case yet I have seen a number of instances where people legally carrying there guns have saved people since then.

    • garybachman

      The TRUTH is that in Kansas individuals may legally purchase firearms from other individuals without ANY requisite background checks or permits. And under the state law passed by our legislature, individuals obtaining a hand gun without any questions may also carry such weapon without any clear qualification other than age. And law enforcement officers are not authorized to even question someone’s right or motive to carry a firearm unless they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed by that individual. Brilliant…

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that we agree on background checks. I too think they’re a good idea. Perhaps you purchased your weapon in Kansas when background checks were still required?

      I agree that one should know the facts. For instance, I am guessing that you might not be aware that, between 2000 and 2013, the FBI found only 1 of 160 active shooter incidents was stopped by a civilian* with a concealed carry permit; in contrast, unarmed civilians stopped 21 incidents during that same period. Perhaps, too, it has escaped your notice that security experts don’t trust concealed-carry holders to stop such an incident because they (the concealed-carry holders) lack the training to be effective in a crisis.

      The mythology you cite is robust and well-publicized, thanks to the NRA and its allies. However, it is unfortunately not true.

      Finally, since my space was limited, one point I did not get to make is that I’m not opposed to firearm ownership. I simply seek for the “well-regulated” part of the Second Amendment to be restored to our gun laws.

      Thanks again for writing.

      * Just to be clear, by “civilian,” I mean a person who is not law enforcement nor a security guard.

      • Jonathan Porter

        Because mass shootings happen in gun free zones where the legal gun owners are disarmed.

  • tallgrass05

    The legislature bowed to the ammosexuals. Guns have no business being in classrooms.

  • Greg

    Dear Sir,
    In regard to Kansas gun purchase and ownership laws, please stick to facts; You wrote- “To get a gun in Kansas, you need only a heartbeat and a credit card”- words unfactual. Felons, mentally ill, domestic abusers are some of those whom find buying or owning a gun, unlawful, even with a heartbeat, credit card, and proper age.

    Guns were illegally carried by shooters on all campuses/ theaters where deaths by guns occurred.
    The police were Deadly minutes away – The Best Reason to Protect Oneself.
    Felons caught in the commission of crimes with guns, could Not lawfully carry. Why not enforce existing optional extended prison time for repeat violence?

    If one cannot speak their mind to another because of a holstered armament, then one should consider counseling. To automatically assume one should fear an arms carrier is Irrational, and without factual grounds for the assumption – is paranoid. Paranoia is an unfounded or exaggerated distrust of others.
    To accommodate irrational fear and thereby lose voice, is to forsake one’s
    truth. One’s personal truth needs no modification when spoken in respect.

    Texting drivers are a deadly combination. Fear of a texting tailgating, swerving driver, behind me, is a rational fear.Texting and operating an automobile is dangerous.

    Mr. Nel stated, (paraphrased), that untrained gun owners are ill-prepared. I must point to the multiple shooting deaths of innocent unarmed people by “Trained” police officers.
    It is also statistically significant to note that police arrive after the crime- it is not their fault, they are not clairvoyant. Police officers are trained to protect themselves by not taking unnecessary risk. Protecting you, at risk to officer, is unnecessary risk.
    Protecting oneself and innocent people from predatory behavior is a right and responsibility in this Republic.
    Allowing paranoia and fear, to excise a Constitutional and natural right from others is selfish. To promote fear of others without factual basis is to promote a neurotic victim mentality. In the Bible it is written that it’s author does not give the spirit of “fear” but of a sound mind. One could conclude that the opposite of a sound mind, is fear.

    I would encourage all, to be aware of the dangers of neurotic behavior, armed or not.

  • Jonathan Porter

    The doom saying in this article is completely destroyed by one fact. Vermont has had laws like this since its inception at not a single mass shooter or other issues described here have happened. And has some of the lowest crime rates of the nation.