From the Daily: Trigger happy

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published October 26, 2009

Question: What do finals and guns have in common? Answer: Students may soon have to worry about both — that is, if the state legislature passes its proposed bill to allow firearms on all college campuses. This extreme and poorly thought out measure would increase the likelihood of gun violence at colleges throughout the state and thwart efforts to keep students safe. Instead, colleges should take reasonable actions to ensure student safety — and the legislature should keep guns away from schools.

Under current state law, a statewide ban on guns exists in places like classrooms, residence halls and stadiums. Many universities, including the University of Michigan, have put their own ordinances in place to prohibit firearms on all parts of their campuses. But a new bill in the state House could change this. If the law is passed, state-protected areas like classrooms and residence halls would still be gun-free zones, but Michigan colleges would no longer be able to keep guns off campuses entirely.

For the University, this means that people would be allowed to carry guns everywhere from bus stops to the Diag, and the Department of Public Safety could do little to stop them. Police at the University and nearby Eastern Michigan University are opposing this new bill, largely because they think it would increase the likelihood of violence on campus. Department of Public Safety Police Chief Ken Magee has called the proposed bill a "recipe for disaster."

Proponents of this bill have argued that colleges should not be allowed to establish gun-free zones, and that people should be allowed to carry firearms on campus without facing any penalties. But this argument doesn’t make sense in the context of a university environment. The more guns there are, the more likely it is that guns will be used, intentionally or unintentionally. Students shouldn’t have to walk to class or walk through campus at night wondering whether or not the people around them are carrying dangerous weapons. And the presence of alcohol in college life means that fights can easily escalate into gun violence and fatal injuries when firearms are present.

Some claim that letting students have guns could prevent acts of violence like the one that occurred at Virginia Tech in April 2006. But the only likely scenario of increasing the presence of guns on campus is that more danger will be created due to accidental shootings. It is a university’s responsibility, not the students’, to implement better safety measures such as emergency alert systems. Armed students taking matters into their own hands will only result in accidental deaths, even in the unlikely event of a school shooter.

The House should reject this bill and respect the University’s efforts to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for students, faculty and staff. Forcing administrators, police, students and others to accept guns when they clearly aren’t wanted is a big step backward for campus safety. It would make the job of maintaining safety on campus decidedly harder.