Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cops, Guns and Fear on Campus

As Campus Fears Rise, So Do Efforts To Enact Gun Laws:

When Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed legislation this month banning concealed weapons on school campuses, the nation was in the midst of one of the worst spasms of gun violence at colleges in recent years. There were three such shootings, including one in Oregon that left 10 people dead, as the bill sat on Mr. Brown’s desk.
But the new California law went against the grain of what lawmakers in many other states have sought to do. Over the past two years, nearly 15 states have debated legislation to make it easier for teachers, students and administrators to carry concealed weapons on campus. Supporters say the best way to subdue a campus assailant is ensuring that certain people on the scene can mount an armed response before the police arrive.
In June, Texas lawmakers made carrying a concealed weapon on campus legal as of August 2016. Similar measures are being debated in Florida, Michigan and Ohio. Last week, Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, introduced a bill that would ease restrictions on guns on campuses; two days later, Democrats countered with legislation that would ban guns on campus.
And naturally, once an issue becomes politicized, common sense goes out the window and we're left with two rather extreme reactions to the issue of campus safety.

Both the left and right assume, for some unknown reason, that campuses are indeed hotbeds of criminal activity. From the need to take out "active shooters" on the right, to the need to take out "sexual assailants" on the left, the growing "wisdom" out there is that our campuses have become the new South Central. The rhetoric suggests our institutes of higher learning have become a cesspool of violence, shootings, sexual assaults, mentally ill young people, drunkards, and insane professors.
“All of these shootings occur in gun-free zones,” said Greg Steube, a Republican member of the Florida House and author of the proposed legislation there allowing guns on campuses. “Gun-free zones don’t protect innocent people from a criminal walking onto a campus and shooting people.”
Talk about your qualified endorsement of guns. 

And who's to say there aren't people carrying already on campus? The entire phrase "gun-free zone" is an oxymoron in a culture like ours, which is awash in guns.
In Florida, where legislators have proposed a gun-friendly bill similar to the one in Texas, a gun rights group called Florida Carry sued Florida State University last month after Rebekah Hargrove, a graduate student there, was barred from having a gun in her car during a school football game.

“Obviously, the ‘gun-free zones’ didn’t work,” said Ms. Hargrove, who leads the state’s chapter of Students for Concealed Carry. She said she began supporting the right to carry weapons on campus after a man opened fire in the library at her school in November 2014, wounding three people. She added: “We trust our citizens to carry everywhere else. Why wouldn’t we trust them to carry on campus?”
Damn straight. Maybe it would cut down on sexual assaults on campus. Or increase them with potentially more lethal outcomes. Or both...or something.

And then we mix in the university police departments to help/hurt the matter.
The Cincinnati incident prompted people to ask what exactly campus cops are for. Do they protect the public or the exclusivity of the campus environment? As privately operated agencies, are they beholden to the whims of administrators?

In fact, campus police departments were created to handle a complicated setting that other law-enforcement agencies, lacking the resources or the right touch, could not. Today, tensions over policing nationally center on officers’ relationships with the people they serve. Campus forces may be mocked, but at their best, they serve as models for "community policing," an approach that emphasizes interaction with the population and a de-escalation of conflict.
And yet many of these departments are some of the most heavily armed units in the country (SWAT teams, armored personnel carriers, bayonets, etc.)

We are literally turning our campuses, places of higher learning, into a garrison state. Soon we'll all be walking around campus (everyone...students, professors, counselors, custodial staff, grounds keeping, librarians) armed to the teeth, waiting for the slightest transgression to piss us off. 
  • Librarian: "Yes, I said a late fee of $1.00 on this library book. Surprise, mother f#*^ker."
  • Professor: "You talking to me? You talking to me about your bad grade? Huh? You talking to me?"
  • Grounds/Custodial: "Did you just leave trash in the classroom? Say hello to my little friend!"
Anyway, the strangest part of the Chronicle story is the end, regarding the "drunk" student who wasn't really drunk.
While driving around the thumping bars of this college town, Sergeant Young sees a young, blonde woman, arms draped over her friends’ shoulders, who appears too drunk to walk. He gets out of his car, goes over, and asks for her I.D. She starts crying, worried that a mark on her record will jeopardize her college career and her dream of working with foster children. "I can’t get in trouble," she says. "Please."

After a Breathalyzer test, the officer discovers she’s not that drunk, and he soon gets the real story. It’s her last semester at Miami, and she’s worried she’ll leave college without a boyfriend. Being carried along was a little drama to attract attention; Sergeant Young notices a suitor hovering nearby. "I am just looking to find the guy I’m going to marry someday," the student says.
Wow. This is almost hard to believe in context. If the student was purposely b.s.ing the cop, or the writer of the story was trying perpetuate stereotypes of the M.R.S. degree, it would make at least a little sense.

But pretending to be drunk in order to meet dudes? I guess it's lucky for all involved that she wasn't armed.

At the end of the day, we need to restore sanity and logic back to the debate (first, by getting it out of the partisan realm). The fact remains, campus shootings are rare, sexual assault on campus is nowhere near the epidemic it's been portrayed to be, and open carry laws, as a solution for preventing crime, generally increase violent crime victimization across the board.

That's not to say these aren't serious issues that we need to remain vigilant about. But the fact remains that college age women are safer from sexual assault victimization on campus than those not in school. And for both men and women ages 18-22, college campuses remain safer, less violent, and less chance of criminal victimization than for those who are not going to school.

So take a breath...and open back to page 324...

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