Saturday, May 2, 2009

Big Guns on Campus

I've been thinking a lot lately about returning to the United States. Since I will be on a campus again for the next four years, I've been thinking about those issues that I'll confront. What stands out the most is how many people regard the presence of a gun on campus as a way to prevent violence on campus.

I'm confused as to how more guns will make me safer. In truth, we've grown accustomed to thinking of American individualism as a romantic motif to draw on when thinking of how to prevent violence. However, the romantic conception of obtaining a concealed weapon permit and drawing a gun to "save the day" is as atrocious as the violence at Virginia Polytechnic. Here's why.

If campuses serve any purpose, it is that campuses are entrusted to provide a safe and nourishing environment. Weapons on a campus threaten this purpose. It's that simple. Simply the presence of a weapon is enough to threaten and undermine the university's educational mission. Recall this one:

Now, the image here is meant as recalling what violence does to a campus.

Moreover, our laws do not really recognize the romanticized conception of the special "hero" that will save the day. People are not empowered to take the law in their own hands. We have police for that. As a society, we've given over some powers of law enforcement to those entrusted to serve the public trust. Only these individuals may really detain someone, or end someone's life only when absolutely necessary. In fact, they have special training in order to do so. Normal citizens do not have that kind of power. We should stop pretending we do.

In the end, campus violence is always felt as a disruption of its purpose. The fact that we want to prevent massive injustices is a good thing. However, in the heat of ultimately desiring prevention, we seek those measures that would make us secure but forget the cost of approving such measures. This is also true when we approve the state may torture the accused at the expense of celebrating the greatness of the American state as a place so enlightened it even protects the rights of the accused.

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