As regular readers know, I do my best to post at least one new article a day here at SMM. Being prolific to that degree is not always possible, but it does teach some interesting lessons. I try to write on topics that interest me—what’s the point otherwise?—and also interest readers.
Take Second Amendment issues. Often, there will be a dearth of interesting things about which to write. Everything seems to have already been said—and I’ve said much of it—or nothing provides an engaging “hook,” an angle I haven’t seen in the writings of others. I really don’t like to cover old ground.
These days, there seem to be a gusher of worthwhile gun ideas, among them, this article from NY Magazine about some very Pajama Boyish college professors:
A professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin very publicly quit this week in response to a new state law that allows students to bring their handguns into all classrooms and offices — including his 500-person introductory economics lectures. The professor, Daniel Hamermesh, has become a symbol for frustrated faculty nervous over the spreading of campus concealed-carry laws. [skip]
A new state law, signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott on June 1, allows students and faculty members with a concealed-handgun license to enter campus buildings with a pistol. Texas law already permits concealed-carry on college campuses, but as of August 1, 2016, concealed weapons will be allowed into almost all classrooms and offices as well.
‘With a huge group of students my perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has been substantially enhanced by the concealed-carry law,’ Hamermesh, 72, wrote. He announced his resignation in a letter sent to university president Gregory Fenves on October 4, explaining that he would not be fulfilling his contract to teach fall economics classes through 2017 ‘out of self-protection.
So much lack of reason and logic in a supposedly educated person. Hamermesh’s position rests entirely on a proposition that has been entirely and resoundingly debunked: more guns, more danger. In 2015, America has far more guns in the hands of citizens than at any time in history, yet violence involving the use of guns has been declining for decades. Ironically, if the warm and loving embrace of government beloved of people like Hamermesh—I infer from his comments and from his position that he, like most college teachers, is a progressive—were truly convincing, and truly provided peace and absolute safety, Barack Obama could not have become the most successful inadvertent gun and ammunition salesman in history.
Having a gun in his or her pocket, not with any plan in mind, just as an impulse, to pull it out and shoot at me,’ Hamermesh explained to Daily Intelligencer, ‘that’s the real worry.’
Hamermesh says it’s not uncommon for some students to act irrationally about grades and schoolwork. ‘I’ve taught some 20,000 students over the years, and I’ve had enough students come to the office complaining, and some of them get pretty riled up.
Hamermesh makes a second, exceedingly common, progressive argument, an article of faith, really: guns have a magical ability to compel people to violence. If guns are at hand, any disagreement, any flare of temper, will result in gunfire. For a Texan, this is the epitome of denial of data and experience.
Texas was a pioneer in the national concealed carry experiment, and the resulting long years of experience reveal Hamermesh’s fears to be unfounded. In Texas and elsewhere, citizens willing to go through the time and expense of obtaining a concealed carry permit—whether such a thing is reasonable or even constitutional is a topic for another article—are uncommonly law-abiding and emotionally stable, as logic could easily predict.
Hamermesh also seems to fail to understand that one can’t obtain such a permit until the age of 21, which means that most students able to legally carry will be seniors, people well-steeped in academic culture, more experienced and mature than most college students.
Hamermesh also ignores perhaps the most fundamental fact of the gun free school zone debate: criminals—and those contemplating mass murder—do not obey the law. No gun-free zone prohibition will deter them. In other words, one need have no fear of the law abiding carrying any weapon. Hamermesh’s fears, by any measure, are not based in logic, reason, data, or experience, particularly in Texas.
But, clearly, the decisions of state legislatures don’t always reflect the feelings of university faculty members. Roughly 94 percent of faculty members did not favor anyone carrying concealed handguns on college campuses, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Community Health that questioned nearly 800 faculty members in a random sample of 15 state universities. The majority of these faculty members (98 percent) felt that handguns created more risk for students and staff.
In fact, at UT Austin, more than 400 faculty members have signed a petition to “refuse guns in their classrooms.”
If people feel there might be a gun in the classroom, students have said that it makes them feel like they would be much more hesitant to raise controversial issues,’ UT history professor and petition organizer Joan Neuberger told Daily Kos. ‘The classroom is a very special place, and it needs to be a safe place, and that means safe from guns.
“A very special place…a safe place…safe from guns.” This too is a common argument of those that believe in the magical properties of gun-free school zones. During my police days, I often sat in such special, safe places while armed. I even attended some classes while armed, and somehow, the nebulous sanctity of the magical classroom remained undisturbed. Of course, people like Neuberger also tend to believe “safety” requires that any idea with which she and her colleagues disagree be banned to maintain that safety.
As with global warming, consensus is vital to such people, which was well expressed some 40 years ago by New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who, upon the election of Richard Nixon, expressed amazement, because no one she knew voted for him! How could that be? Because everyone Kael knew, everyone with whom she associated, was just like her: a progressive, and never was heard a discouraging word (and the sky was not cloudy all day). The same is true of university professors.
Dr. Chad Kautzer, assistant professor in the philosophy department at University of Colorado at Denver, knows this feeling all too well.
Kautzer, along with other faculty members, led the petition against the university in 2012 to ban concealed weapons from being allowed on state campuses. Despite having support from ‘a vast majority of faculty’ and being unanimously endorsed by the university’s School of Medicine, the petition was unsuccessful in the state House.
‘We felt like we signed on to this job in this campus community under different conditions than we live with now,’ Kautzer told Daily Intelligencer. ‘The idea that our students would bring guns to our offices and classrooms was never part of the deal when we considered going into this field.’
Kautzer says the growing trend of concealed-carry laws leaves faculty feeling helpless. ‘There’s a sense of anger, there’s a sense of betrayal, so I think as more and more universities allow concealed-carry, I think you’re going to get more and more resistance.
Kautzer, despite his educational credentials, is apparently unable to differentiate between contractual and social issues. Did Kautzer and his colleagues sign a contract that guaranteed that societal attitudes and the law would never change during the course of their employment? Obviously, Kautzer and those he leads think their positions, perhaps even the very nature of the buildings in which they work, should in some magical way insulate them from danger. It’s unfortunate that Kautzer can’t understand that law-abiding students carrying concealed weapons represent not the slightest danger.
Hamermesh acknowledged that it’s fairly easy for him to quit over this since he was already transitioning into retirement. ‘It’s low-cost to me, although I am giving up some money I would’ve gotten, but for anybody else to do it it’d be really difficult because they’d have careers they’re in the middle of.’
He added he has already heard from one concerned Connecticut mother whose high-school daughter is no longer considering attending UT because she is afraid of the concealed-carry law.
Might there be another possibility? One student might not come to UT over fear of concealed carrying students? It shouldn’t be a surprise that this young lady is from Connecticut, but again, this attitude ignores decades of experience and fact. I suspect that more students will be happy to attend UT than might be frightened away, rightly believing it safer. Oh, and don’t people learn in college that anecdotes aren’t proof?
But there isn’t much of an organized network of resistance — at least not one that can rival the gun lobby, Kautzer explains. He simply hopes that faculty will become more aware of the spread of concealed-carry laws and can be prepared to fight if they disagree. Kautzer suggests that Hamermesh’s resignation is a catalyst for other faculty who don’t support concealed-carry at public schools.
‘I really applaud him,’ Kautzer says of Hamermesh. ‘Those are the kinds of things that inform everyone else around the country that this is coming to your campus soon, so you better get ready.
Ready? Ready for what? For the experience of Texans, and the residents of every other state where the Wild West shootouts over traffic accidents and other daily disagreements, and blood running in the streets predicted by progressives with the advent of each and every state concealed carry law failed to come to pass? For the reality that no legislature, once passing a concealed carry law, has ever, in any actual way, thought to repeal it? Ready for business as usual, for never knowing which of one’s law-abiding students is carrying a concealed handgun? Ready for that making no difference at all? Ready for classrooms to remain as “special” and “safe” as they’ve ever been? This bit is particularly good:
The law will make the university less good,’ Hamermesh says. ‘Think of somebody who wants to leave his or her current job, a distinguished professor. They have lots of alternatives. This makes the university less attractive.
Apparently Hamermesh has been unconscious over the last several decades as colleges have greatly diminished the numbers of tenured faculty, hiring only low paid adjunct faculty without benefits and no hope of tenure. Unless the university system dramatically changes, very few “distinguished professor[s]” will ever have the chance to experience the fear that is so palpable to Hamermesh and his colleagues.
The largest omission in the logic of Hamermesh, Kautzer and like-minded academics is that of actual experience. In every attack on a college—a gun-free zone—students and professors, unarmed and unable to resist, have died, yet professors seem unable to learn from those experiences, other than to continue to suggest that those deaths clearly indicate that gun-free school zones work beautifully and must be maintained at all costs because “special” and “safety.”
As Albert Einstein said, doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity. It is also obviously the definition of the modern university and “the vast majority of faculty.”