A missed opportunity to advocate for reasonable campus gun control

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February 14, 2013

10:13 PM

America is staring down the barrel of a gun called fear. It is a weapon that fires harmless blanks and sends millions of Americans running for the idealized and absolute freedom they purportedly once had. Fear of government seizure of private guns has become the weapon and ammunition for the political war of words surrounding gun control — the fodder for the ideological firestorm that has left Congress stagnant and the American public wholeheartedly dissatisfied at a time when compromise is essential.

The debate over gun control has gotten out of control, so let’s get back to the basics. Guns aren’t wrong. People that own and shoot guns aren’t wrong. Guns have been a staple of American culture and heritage for centuries, and it would be patently wrong to ignore the Second Amendment and attempt to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens. In fact, even the Brady Campaign has stated that the only way to curb gun violence and establish sensible gun control is to allow those who use guns responsibly to keep guns. Additionally, gun control will be a moot point if simultaneous steps aren’t taken to improve mental health services among our fellow citizens.

Ideological discussions of gun rights, however, must be paired with fact: guns are a net detriment to public health. Over 47,000 people were murdered with firearms in the U.S. between 2006 and 2012. The problem is not just crime but lethal crime. United States’ crime rates don’t grossly exceed those of other industrialized nations, but its homicide rates do, to the extant that the U.S. is ranked highest among industrialized nations. Concurrently, with 88 guns per 100 citizens, the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world and the least stringent laws. It seems logical that high gun ownership would correlate with high lethal violence. It is significant that the commonly invoked fact that 2.5 million Americans defend themselves with guns each year, which was originally published in a 1995 study by Kleck and Gertz, has been denounced by peer researchers for faulty methods and proven statistically impossible. In reality, instances of successful self-defense using a firearm in the case of a burglary were reported to hover at below 2 percent based on extrapolations from an Atlanta study in 1995 by Kellermann.

You can take or leave the statistics, but there is a specific policy discussion underway concerning guns on college campuses that is particularly pertinent to us.  Over 350 college presidents have signed a petition to end the gun show loophole, require minimum safety standards, ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and not allow private guns on college campuses or in school classrooms.  If any progress is to be made on the gun control front, it seems that these are the demands that will get us there.

It seems like a no-brainer — these reforms would enable you as a responsible citizen to legally buy a safe gun and know that those unfit to carry them will not have that privilege. Evidently, however, our college doesn’t agree: College President Taylor Reveley did not sign the petition.

This is not a time to freeze up with the fear that is so maliciously being implicated in policy discussions. We at the College of William and Mary know better than to pass up an opportunity at reasonable and moderate reform on a pressing issue such as gun control, and our time demands action, not just talk.

Email William Plews-Ogan at wmplewsogan@email.wm.edu.

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  • William Plews-Ogan