COLUMN: Stay safe, don’t pack heat
From the left
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 00:09
Guns play a nontrivial role in our national culture and — even more so — our state culture here in Utah. Concealed carry permit classes are offered on a regular basis, the Cache Public Shooting Range enjoys a steady stream of business and hunting is a perennially popular pastime in the mountains surrounding Cache Valley. Our state legislature has even made sure to accentuate Utah’s peculiar esteem for firearms by denoting a “state gun” — the nation’s first — as the Browning M1911 automatic pistol.
As a Democrat, I do hold some healthy reservations about the glorification of guns. No, I don’t think that guns are innately evil — and sure, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But to deny the inherently deadly nature of firearms and pretend they are wholly docile instruments is to be naive and careless.
To be sure, the majority of gun owners are balanced, responsible people. More than a handful of USU students have grown up accustomed to the use of firearms for hunting or recreation and understand well the responsible operation of firearms. But it regrettably only takes one or two well-armed wingnuts to wreck havoc and destruction, as has been brutally demonstrated by the rash of mass shootings over the past year. In response to these recent tragedies, proposals to prevent future attacks have ranged from a mass effort to arm all civilians to an outright ban on all privately owned firearms.
I frankly don’t believe in the strictest form of gun control, because history has taught us more than once that banning things — such as, say, alcohol and marijuana — doesn’t halt their use; in fact, it more often than not creates a thriving black market. We certainly struggle enough keeping guns in the right hands in the legal market — we don’t need to make our task ten times more difficult by creating perverse incentives. A full firearm ban would also stand on tenuous legal ground.
But I also don’t believe that the other extreme of universally arming civilians so they can individually respond to threats is remotely a good idea. Civilians by-and-large lack the requisite training, discipline and experience necessary to respond to a crisis in a safe fashion that will not actually compound the danger posed to other bystanders. Even having the best-intentioned professors and students pack heat in a university classroom dramatically increases the likelihood of tragic accidents and misfirings.
Simply put, far more tragedies are catalyzed than prevented.
Furthermore, when individual people take the law into their own hands, especially when those hands hold a weapon of deadly force, the rule of law is seriously jeopardized. There’s a really good reason to entrust law enforcement officers with a monopoly on deadly force: vigilante justice gets out of hand faster than you can blink an eye.
No, guns are not the root of all evil. And many civilians who carry a gun are well-intentioned. It is my firm belief, though, that the law is better left in the hands of law enforcement. Far fewer tragedies in the aggregate will come from having fewer, not more, firearms in university classrooms across the nation.