Four dead in Ohio. Today’s college students—and even some of their parents—had not been born when Neil Young’s lyrics became an anthem of a generation. But for those who do remember the tragedy at Kent State, there’s a nagging fear that college students and armed law enforcement officers are still a deadly mix.
In my hometown—where hot topics usually range from the annual carnival to changing traffic patterns on State Street—this atypical issue has recently reared its head. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, as college administrators nationwide ask themselves one question—“Could this happen here?”—they are also looking at solutions to make sure the response is “No.”
Locally, the current debate has focused on whether campus police officers should be allowed to carry guns. This headline issue has caused widespread discord throughout town. The classrooms, hallways, and lunch tables at my high school were not immune from the arguments.
Some, who speak out against the arming of campus guards, have cited Kent State as a warning to heed. They note that college students and campus security guards often hail from disparate socioeconomic and educational backgrounds or hold opposing values and goals. Students, they insist, can be passionate to the point of insolence; they can be impetuous and thoughtless. Security staff who resent student privilege or arrogance may overreact with force.
Those in favor of weapons for campus guards maintain that the death toll in Virginia would have been reduced with faster armed intervention. Some even suggest that the perpetrator might have been derailed from his murderous plans if campus guards were visibly equipped with weapons.
The guys who gathered at my lunch table back in high school were surprised to find me in that latter camp. Those who know me well have often heard me spout off on the Second Amendment. They've endured my diatribes on why this amendment is obsolete. In my opinion, it was first formed in order to help develop a "well-regulated militia." In a time when war depends on weapons other than handguns and where drafts are rare, the Second Amendment is unnecessary and statistics on accidental shootings in private homes are ominous, as are violent crimes resulting from the “heat of passion.” However, I would support a loose interpretation of the Second Amendment where the “right to bear arms” would include self-defense weapons such as stun guns, but not lethal ones.
So, how is it possible that someone with such strong opposition to the Second Amendment favors the arming of campus guards? One of the main reasons lies in the level of training. Campus police have far more in-depth training and are better able to handle guns than the average citizen. Also, campus officers go into dangerous situations fairly frequently, where students rarely face that level of danger. Thus, those responsible for campus security need firearms as their primary line of defense. Even the strongest TASER would lose a fight against a handgun. Also, people tend to feel more secure around police officers. Their visible, armed presence serves as a kind of passive first line of defense.
This issue continues to unfold across the state as politicians and university faculty voice their opinions. As the debate rages on, I will continue to voice my stand: Armed guards, not harmed students.