As the nation divides on the issue of gun control, UVU students and faculty find themselves in discord on how to handle guns on campus.
Due to the culture of Utah Valley, guns are commonplace. The assumption is that 10 to 20 percent of students are carrying a concealed weapon. Out of 10,000 students on campus at once, that means 1,000 to 2,000 guns.
There’s a strong debate between those who feel safer at the thought of having guns on campus and those who don’t see the difference between persons that would do harm and those who carry for protection.
“Most of the time those who carry guns are the people the rest of us wish wouldn’t,” said Michael Minch, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program.
The common wisdom behind choosing to carry a concealed weapon is that it makes for a safer environment, allowing carriers to protect themselves.
“Some people are scared by people carrying, but some people feel safer when they have a gun,” said Ethan Liston, UVU student. “[Having a gun] makes things safer. When someone is going to go somewhere and shoot people, they aren’t going to go where they know that there are 10 [to] 100 people with guns.”
Studies show that when a person makes the decision to act out in planned violence, they feel as if they’ve reached an end point, that it often becomes a suicide mission.
“It’s meant to be a statement,” Dr. Mark Sonneberg, psychological analyst of the Columbine massacre, reported in an interview with Time magazine. “Massacres are often designed to gain glory or prestige, a way to become martyrs to their cause.”
The idea that it is safer to have guns in the hands of good, law-abiding citizens in defense of guns in the hands of bad, criminally minded people is commonly used as defense for the right to carry concealed weapons.
“There is this false belief that there are good people and bad people, as if bad people have badness in their DNA,” Minch said. “Some think if a […]‘good’ person has a gun it’s okay, but it’s not if a ‘bad’ person has one. Humanity is not that black and white. It cannot be divided up in good and bad. A person may be a good, law-abiding citizen up until a single moment when that all changes.”
For Scott Carrier, who teaches journalism at UVU, the issue isn’t about whether or not people should own guns, it’s whether or not they should bring them to campus.
“I’m not trying to change any laws,” Carrier said. “I’m just trying to help people realize it’s a personal decision. I hope that the people who bring guns to school will make the choice to leave them at home.”
Utah State Law allows for concealed weapons to be carried on any state-owned university campus by those with the proper permit. For many UVU educators this presents a dilemma.
“As a teacher, it’s my job to create an environment that’s conducive to learning,” Carrier said. “A school is a place where ideas need to move freely; an idea doesn’t come into a closed mind. When you are worried about being attacked all the time, your mind is closed.”
In the wake of the demonstrations at the Utah State Capitol last month, many choose to carry guns because of their perceived Second Amendment rights.
“Some people carry because it’s their right and they can, so they do,” Liston said.
Others argue that the Second Amendment may allow for the right to own arms but doesn’t necessarily protect the right to carry wherever chosen.
“I think the only guns on campus should be law enforcement. I don’t think that’s in conflict with the second amendment,” said Dr. Robert Robbins, professor of biology and botany. “There is not place in the academic world for an instrument of death.”
Both sides of the argument echo fear: fear of falling victim to violence and fear of another’s choices.
“We live in fear,” Carrier said. “We walk around in fear, and to not act out of fear is really hard, no matter who you are.”
Because UVU is a state-owned university, it mirrors the policies of the government; as long as Utah’s legislature sees guns on campus being in the popular vote no major change is likely to occur anytime soon.
By Nicole Shepard @NicoleEShepard