Logic and Reason and Guns on Campus

My daughter just turned 14. That’s a happy thing. She’s growing from a beautiful child into an amazing young lady. It won’t be long before she’s driving (that’s NOT a happy thing – ask any dad) and in the not too distant future, heading off for the college of her our choice. And that brings me to the horns of a dilemma. Used to be, you’d pick a school based on just a few factors: the quality of the education, what it offered in the way of classes for a particular area of study, the cost of a 4-year degree, and the reputation for hard-partying (or lack thereof). But now, you have to add to that the relatively related concerns of the campus’s social bias and their attitude towards guns. I’ve got four years to figure this out. And that may not be enough time…

Just today, this article came across my desk with news from the great state of Colorado. Seems the Colorado Supreme Court has struck down a ban that the Colorado Board of Regents put in place, prohibiting guns on campus. Makes sense, right? I mean, what business does a bunch of academics have contradicting state law? As recently as 30 years ago, such a ban would have gotten the entire board fired, and laughed out of the state.

But over the past few decades, higher education has become increasingly more adverse to positions once thought sacrosanct, including a traditional reading of the 2nd Amendment. And the slippery slope of “logic” (as applied by the anti-gun crowd) has eroded our rights to the point where politicians and academics can claim it’s “for the children” and get a free pass on whatever nonsense they want to push down the collective throats of the public.

The immediate reaction in the Colorado Legislature was, interestingly enough, NOT a collective sigh of relief, as the courts righted the wrongs of the Board of Regents. Nope. The Progressive contingent immediately began speculation on how to craft a cut-out in the law to prevent concealed carry on campuses that would pass Constitutional muster. Swell. But rather than argue Constitutional law here, let’s take a step back and look at this issue from a common sense point of view.

Currently, gun laws are a hodgepodge, a patchwork quilt of contradictory regulations, from state to state. And surprisingly, this is the way it should be, as long as the laws don’t run afoul of impinging upon our Constitutionally-protected rights. If you’re not a student of the Constitution and the way our government is supposed to work, allow me to dredge up a term from your long-forgotten, high school civics class: “States Rights.”

Originally, the federal government was conceived as a group with specific powers, strictly limited to only those that were spelled out in the Constitution. In other words, the Constitution was written from the point of view that power comes from “We the People,” and the people granted the federal government only a limited number of very specific powers.

The Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the Constitution) was added to specifically protect and spell out rights reserved for the people and to prevent the federal government from ever being able to step on those rights. The principle author of the Constitution, James Madison, felt that the Bill of Rights was unnecessary for he believed that they were obvious to anyone who read the Constitution. Opponents to ratification threw up the Bill of Rights as a roadblock – Madison agreed to add them as amendments to win support for passage of the Constitution.

Fast-forward 200 years. Seems as though the Bill of Rights was a very good idea after all.  Without them our right to keep and bear arms would have long since disappeared everywhere, not just on college campuses. But while we have a nationwide right to bear arms, it’s not an unlimited right.

The courts have held that these rights may have some “common sense” limitations, with such restrictions coming from the State Legislatures. This, in turn, is why it’s not such a bad idea that we have rights protected on a Federal level, but specific gun laws can vary from state to state. In effect, this allows the states to act as 50 different petri dishes, to experiment with new ways to either protect our rights or to impinge upon them, as the case may be.

And that brings us back to campus carry. One of the “common sense” limitations that many of the states have codified into law has to do with a minimum age for who can own and carry a firearm on their own. The whole concept of “age of consent” or “age of responsibility” is pretty interesting, and has resulted in some convoluted logic on it’s own. The classic example of such conflict is the idea that “a young man is old enough to die for his country, but not old enough to vote.”

At one time the voting age was 21, and the enlistment age was 18. The illogic of this prompted Congress to change the law to allow 18-year-olds the right to vote. (Of course, at 18, you’re old enough to get your backside shot off for Uncle Sam, but they maintain you’re not old enough to drink, so it’s not like logic and reason rule the day, when it comes to age laws). Legislatures across the land generally set 18 as the magical number for when a youngster becomes an adult, and is therefore legally responsible for their own actions.

Most people leave for college around 18 and graduate around 21 years of age. If college campuses were not designated as “gun-free zones” (a.k.a. “target-rich environments”), only faculty, some seniors and grad students would be legally able to conceal-carry. This immediately negates the argument that anti-gun forces marshaled to defeat campus-carry laws in places like Texas (!), where they suggested that a mix of guns, under-age kids and alcohol would turn our colleges and universities into abattoirs where the campus streets would run red with the blood of our young.  It’s for the children!

In the so-called “blue” states, I’m surprised that the legislatures haven’t pushed laws that would prohibit guns in homes where parents have opted to home-school their children. It hasn’t gotten THAT nuts yet. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

But wait – don’t our laws already prohibit anyone under 21 from concealed carry? Why is that? Oh, yeah…it’s because anyone under 21 is considered a minor child and not legally responsible for their own actions, whereas, *prang!* pass your 21st birthday, and it’s your own damn fault, whatever mischief you do. Legally speaking, that makes 21’s and older “responsible citizens” in the eyes of the law. And in the eyes of the law, they should be allowed to carry.

But the “gun-free zone” advocates hold that NOBODY should be allowed to carry on-campus – not students who’ve reached their 21st year, not teachers, not staff, not ANYbody. (I grant you, a large proportion of college faculty wouldn’t be caught dead with a gun, because of their politics. But for those who teach and are not Progressives or anti-gun – usually, but not always synonymous – they are banned from self-protection as well.)

Now let’s bring this back to my own point of view. I have a daughter. She’s 5’10” and looks older than her 14 years. If you’ve considered the prospects of sending your kid off to college, especially to one that is far enough away that you can’t be there in just a few minutes should they call for help, you’d really want them to be able to take care of themselves.

Have you looked into stats for rapes and assaults at any college on your kid’s list? Good luck with that – most schools do a bang-up job covering those stats up, releasing only what makes its way into the papers, since they can’t deny those. Which means, what you actually hear about is just the tip of the iceberg. And remember, for at least three out of the four years she’ll be a co-ed, she’d be rendered defenseless, even if campus carry were legal, since most gun laws prohibit under-21s from qualifying for a permit.

That leaves me on the horns of the aforementioned dilemma. Do I advise her to obey the law, go without a gun, then hope and pray for the best? Do I buy her a mouse gun and caution her to keep it hidden? Do I limit our college choices to states where she can legally carry? Or do I look for colleges in states where at least the campus police, faculty and staff can carry?

I don’t know. I’ve got about 4 years to figure it out. Maybe, within that time, our campus carry and state-wide conceal carry laws will change to allow anyone old enough to die for our country in combat to have the right to self-defense, no matter where they are. In the meantime, if you hear of any four-year institutions of higher learning that don’t just allow, but encourage students to bear arms, let me know, huh? It’s a pity that Colt or Springfield or some other gunmakers don’t just start their own college. I know that’s the kind of institution that would vault to the top of my list.