The College Libertarians gave one lucky student a chance to take campus safety into his own hands on Monday. By setting up a raffle for a $200 voucher to purchase a gun at a local store, the group aimed to champion the Second Amendment and stress the idea that firearms are necessary to ensure public safety. Even looking beyond the fallacy of the College Libertarians’ argument about the most misinterpreted amendment of all, advocating for more guns on college campuses is under no circumstances a defensible position. In the wake of recent shootings at schools and colleges, including the one at Virginia Tech University last April, such a position is nothing short of reckless.
Undeterred by state law prohibiting firearms on campus, the College Libertarians sidestepped barriers by raffling off a voucher. This raffle comes on the heels of a similar event held by the group last April, just weeks prior to the Virginia Tech shooting. The inspiration for the event was a spate of similar events held at other universities. Three years ago at the University of Illinois, the staff of a conservative newspaper held a multi-gun raffle, and last year a Clemson University student newspaper gave away two guns, including an AK-47, a semiautomatic relic of the Cold War that is today the choice of rebel armies worldwide.
These gun giveaways on college campuses reflect a disturbing ideology that increased gun ownership promotes greater personal security. Libertarians and Republicans on some campuses argue that the responsibility to use firearms safely lies within the owners and refute the need for stricter gun laws by pointing to the Second Amendment. However, the Second Amendment was never meant to be taken in the literal sense that libertarians today insist upon; anyone who bothered to analyze its context would know that.
When the founding fathers conceived “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” they were writing in light of King George and the army that responded to him and not the people. As long as we have an army that works at the pleasure of a democratically elected government, the second amendment is being satisfied. For example, in a democracy, the people have the right to rule, but that does not mean every single person gets oversight on every single policy decision. Similarly, the Second Amendment refers only to an army of the people, not every single person carrying a firearm.
Even if we were to go along with the idea that everyone must be able to own a gun, there is no viable logic that justifies legalizing firearms on college campuses. Wouldn’t more guns just increase the likelihood of tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech? The reality in this country is that our laws are already too loose. Too often we allow guns to be placed into irresponsible hands, and the danger of that would only increase with looser gun laws.
Instead of arming young adults and consequently risking the possibility of lecture-hall shootouts or other misuses of firearms, a better way to promote safety is taking preventative measures to address the root causes of violence like inadequate mental health care. This is an especially important issue on college campuses, where the stresses of college life leave students prone to depression.
Pressing for easier access to firearms in a country where there are already an estimated 200 million guns in circulation is suicidal. In April, a BBC news story cited a 2001 Harris poll result showing that “the risk of being killed by a firearm in the U.S. is higher than in any other Western nation.” This shows that gun control – instead of gun ownership – is what needs to be protected in this country.