Liberal reaction to repeal of guns on campus law

Published: January 26, 2012, 2:17 am ET
Guest Columnist

Before I say anything else, let me make it clear: any liberal (or person) who calls himself an American should believe in the Constitution. I see, too often, in blogs and on television people who selectively promote their favorite parts of our governing document. Conservatives seem as if they want to tattoo the 10th Amendment (states’ rights) on their chest, but often questionably cut corners around the Fourth Amendment (protection against unwarranted searches) for the sake of “national security.” Liberals talk endlessly of First Amendment rights to free speech, while trying to ignore the Second Amendment. I try not to be one of those people.

Del. Robert Marshall introduced a bill this General Assembly session that would prevent Virginia’s public universities from barring their faculty to carry concealed firearms. According to the local Style Weekly, he was inspired by concerns expressed by professors in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. Marshall believes that professors could add a layer of security during emergencies.

This bill could set a dangerous precedent. It says that any professor who holds a concealed-carry permit would be allowed to carry a weapon on public university campuses. Logically, one would believe that the process to acquire these permits is strict and intelligent, but in gun-friendly Virginia, this is not the case. A safety course of some kind must be completed to qualify, according to the Virginia State Police website. Ridiculously, online and video courses are listed as satisfactory.

While I have never fired a gun, I think I can reasonably assume that it is something you should probably practice at first. Marshall said: “Parents routinely trust college professors with the intellectual formation of their children. Why wouldn’t they trust them with their lives, under circumstances that may warrant that?” The leaping conclusion of this quote aside, I think parents would have a different reaction when they heard that people who have potentially never fired a gun before could be carrying one around their children.

HB 91 also continues the assault of Virginia’s “conservative” government on private businesses and universities. In 2010, the General Assembly passed a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons into bars. Many business owners expressed justified worry about guns and alcohol mixing, and outrage that they were no longer allowed to set policies for their own establishments.

Rogue Attorney General and gubernatorial-race spoiler Ken Cuccinelli continues his taxpayer-funded war on academic freedom against the University of Virginia for defending a professor who published data in support of global warming. How dare he conduct science in this state! The state is imposing unwanted rules on public universities at a time when the government is also cutting their funding. I laugh when the governor complains about his troubles with unfunded mandates.

The University of Richmond is not a public institution, but this bill could set a precedent that affects us too. Some will point to incidents such as the recent dorm and apartment burglaries on campus as evidence of a need for more security, but that incident had nothing to do with life-threatening violence, and everything to do with forgetting to lock doors.

Campus police have been heavily trained to deal with dangerous situations, especially in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. They know when to confront a suspect and when to hold fire. Their expertise cannot be matched by the average citizen even if they do hold a doctorate. A faculty member could easily misidentify a student walking or running across campus as a gunman, and a terrible situation would become even worse.

The Second Amendment protects “the right of people to keep and bear arms” in the U.S. Its simplicity is both beautiful and frustrating, in that it has been interpreted and re-interpreted often in the last 200 years.

My interpretation fully supports the right, but also protects the rights of institutions to set their own rules about something so critical and divisive. And call me naïve, but school still seems like no place to have a gun.

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  • Jack Burton

    I am not sure what degree Mr. Panko is striving for but I certainly hope that it has nothing to do with involving research to find out about reality, instead of living in the fantasy world of his mind. His failure to understand and acknowledge the fact that in many campuses around the country his fears and concerns just have not come true leads me to believe that he is writing without doing even the basic, minimal research expected from a scholar. 

  • Michael De Armond

    Care to ban Free speech on campus? Or leave it up to each individual campus to only ban the speech they find dangerous or offensive?

  • Barry Hirsh

    Ben, with all due respect, if you want a “balancing” act, go to a circus. The right to self-defense and the defense of other innocents is a fundamental right, which, BTW, can’t be exercised without a gun, in more cases than not. Therefore, the SCOTUS has duly recognized that this core right at the center of the Second Amendment extends to all people, in every state. Now, to attenuate a right, there must be a demonstrable compelling state interest, and the action must be the narrowest and least restrictive possible. It is conceded that public safety is a compelling government interest. What is not conceded is that any interference beyond the most basic guarantee of non-criminality, sanity and competency is constitutional. Additionally, I’ll bet you a thousand bucks that if an active shooter showed up on campus, the first thought of the parents would be “Oh, God, I hope his/her professor has a GUN.” They wouldn’t be musing about the size of his shot groupings.
    Regarding carrying while drinking, the same standard should apply as the requisite for driving a motor vehicle – .08%. It is illogical to presume that an armed person is any more dangerous within this limit that he/she would be driving.
    Logic, Ben. Not emotion, not “what if”, not prior restraint. Logic, and liberty.

  • Larry Arnold

    “A faculty member could easily misidentify a student walking
    or running across campus as a gunman, and a terrible situation would become
    even worse.”


    There are three answers to these hypothetical problems:

    1. The CHLs who would carry on campus are the same ones who
    routinely carry everywhere else, and don’t cause these hypothetical problems.

    2. The number of campuses with concealed carry is expanding
    across the U.S. Again, none of these hypothetical problems have occurred.

    3. Unfortunately we have way too much experience with what
    happens in “gun-free” zones. The carnage experienced in events like the
    Virginia Tech shooting is NOT hypothetical.


    Also, the faculty members you fear lack training work at an
    institution dedicated to teaching people to do stuff. How is that not an
    opportunity? Set up a voluntary class on dealing with campus emergencies and I
    bet even non-CHLs would show up.