Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
One of the most maudlin themes of the Western melodrama is that of the callow young man who, intent on commanding respect, insists on wearing a gun. Johnny Cash’s 1958 hit “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” for instance, relates how one such would-be gunslinger comes to a bad end. I thought of Cash’s ballad recently when I learned that Liberty University — the Christian university founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg — now allows faculty, staff, students and visitors to carry concealed weapons on campus and in campus buildings.
In all fairness, Liberty claims to be requiring anyone who would bring a gun on campus to have a concealed-weapon permit and to register with the campus police. People who carry concealed weapons, however, generally keep them concealed. And, as with most universities, anyone can walk on to Liberty’s campus and into its buildings without security screening. The requirements to have a permit and to register with the campus police, therefore, are unenforceable.
There is, of course, something to be said for the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre’s assertion that “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Liberty’s chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., certainly seems to believe that. On April 3, he was quoted in Lynchburg’s News and Advance boasting that Liberty now has a “higher level of security than what was found at Virginia Tech” — alluding to the April 2007 tragedy that is still fresh in people’s minds throughout the region.
As a former professor and university administrator myself, I would give Falwell an “A” for candor and an “F” for sensitivity. But the NRA and Falwell’s faith notwithstanding, the real issue is whether Liberty University is really any safer by welcoming guns on campus.
In Virginia, anyone 21 or older without a criminal record, and with no history of mental illness or domestic violence, can qualify for a concealed-carry permit by watching a one-hour video online and then passing an online test, which can be repeated as many times as necessary. The same is true of West Virginia. That is hardly adequate training for handling a firearm safely, much less how to respond in an actual emergency.
Young adults, moreover, are not generally known for exercising sound judgment. Personally, I was troubled by the television news coverage featuring Liberty students proudly displaying the guns they had tucked under their hoodies. If I were a Liberty University administrator, I would worry that one of Liberty’s self-appointed, gun-toting guardians could be motivated by a neurotic need to become a hero. Think Mayberry’s Barney Fife transplanted to a more threatening time and place.
Some high-strung, hair-trigger zealot may just misconstrue an ambiguous situation and shoot an innocent person. And then there is the problem of schizophrenia, which often first manifests itself in young adulthood.
I would also worry that Liberty’s much-vaunted new policy could come as a challenge to a disturbed person aiming for the notoriety of accomplishing a massacre on a well-armed campus. According to a CBS News report, Newtown’s Adam Lanza was partly motivated by one-upmanship. He wanted to better the body count of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.
In addition to being a former professor and university administrator, I happen to be a former enlisted Marine, a Vietnam veteran and a retired Marine officer. My enlisted service, moreover, included a year and a half in the military police, and my wife worked as a police dispatcher for two police departments in putting me through college.
I came away from all those experiences convinced that guns are best placed in the hands of those psychologically screened and formally trained to use them. Let’s hope that Liberty University doesn’t come to that realization the hard way. In any event, I don’t think it is a good idea to encourage college kids to carry guns — to town or to campus.
Weather JournalPossible scrape with snow Tues