“The Alaska Legislature has considered some preposterous notions in its 101 years,” Terrence Cole [above] writes at adn.com, “but Sen. John Coghill’s proposal to allow guns on UA campuses, which reportedly came from a student intern in his office, is probably the most ill-informed idea to ever come out of Juneau.” I fail to see what’s preposterous about the idea that an American’s natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms shouldn’t end at the gates of a public university – any more than their right to free speech shouldn’t cease when they set foot on campus. Mr. Cole intends to school me in that regard. But first, what’s up with dissing interns? I mean . . .
Cole is a professor of history at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). Surely Professor Cole wouldn’t want to downplay the intellectual rigor of young people. Especially students. Especially students who go out into the world in an attempt to play a part in political events. That kind of contempt would indicate disdain for the very people he’s entrusted to educate and inspire.
That’s not the half of it. Anyway, in the interest of open discussion, let’s let the scholar have his say about what’s at stake with The Last Frontier’s gun rights bill . . .
The obvious intent of the bill is to protect the Second Amendment rights of students, staff and faculty, but the unintended consequence of this shortsighted scheme is the curtailment of our First Amendment rights.
The famous line that “an armed society is a polite society” goes to the heart of the problem, because a truly free society is most definitely not a polite society. And the college classroom is not and cannot be part of polite society.
In polite society, as our parents taught us, religion and politics are off-limits, because many people get deeply offended when they feel their most cherished views are questioned in any way. For good reason we still prohibit carrying guns into bars in Alaska, because people who have had a few are likely to make liberal use of their First Amendment rights to accidentally or intentionally offend others.
The obvious intent of this polemic: to prove that the First Amendment and Second Amendment are incompatible. To prevent rhteorical push coming to ballistic shove, the First should trump the Second wherever people are bound to be impolite – whether that’s a roadhouse bar or a college classroom.
By Cole’s definition, a free society is one where you can say anything to anyone without any consequences. Because there aren’t any guns to turn conversational confrontation into a potentially lethal altercation (setting aside the existence of fists, knives, bar glasses, etc.). The obvious “model” for this free society: Cole’s workplace. Which he seeks to preserve by maintaining the UAF ban on otherwise legal firearms.
The obvious problem with that line of reasoning: UAF’s record on free speech. Click here for a report on an eight-month UAF “investigation” into the school newspaper’s April Fool’s story (suggesting that the University was going to erect a building in the shape of a vagina). The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said the University’s actions had “an impermissible chilling effect on campus expression and student journalism.” What’s more . . .
University of Alaska Fairbanks received a yellow light rating from the foundation based on its policies as of February 2013. A yellow light school “maintains policies that could be interpreted to suppress protected speech or policies that, while clearly restricting freedom of speech, restrict only narrow categories of speech,” according to the foundation.”
One wonders about the limits of free speech in Professor Cole’s classroom. How much tolerance does he have for students who profoundly disagree with his thesis that the Second Amendment is incompatible with the First? Judging from this passage, a lot. At least in theory . . .
. . . the college classroom is where sensitive and dangerous topics are often the center of the conversation. Students and faculty must be free to tackle tough questions: gun rights and gay rights, race and religion, immigration, abortion and assisted suicide. On this ground, where the first rule is the right of free speech, sincerity and the search for truth must trump the usual need for insincere superficiality.
The great skill is learning how to disagree in an agreeable manner. During heated and honest debates sometimes students take great offense at the remarks of others. Sometimes it is due to a misunderstanding; sometimes because of genuine philosophical and ideological differences. The whole goal is to have honest discussions of difficult matters, to shed light on fundamental questions of humanity, without anyone ever feeling physically intimidated, no matter how controversial or wrong-headed their ideas, or someone else’s, might be. That would be impossible with guns in the mix.
Did you catch that? Professor Cole believes that conversations outside of academia are both insincere and superficial. In other words, average folks are liars and idiots. Of course it’s not their fault. They have to be that way – or else they’d get shot! I’m sure there are better examples of the know-nothing condescending elitism that typifies gun grabbers’ mindset. I just can’t think of any at the moment.
Another hallmark of people who support civilian disarmament: they consider guns inherently intimidating (e.g., Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America jefe Shannon Watts claiming TTAG writer and concealed carry gun owner Alan Brook was trying to intimidate her with a firearm of which she was completely unaware.) Not to put too fine a point on it, gun grabbers consider firearms in civilian hands – any civilian hands (aside from the police) – to be ticking time bombs.
A student might honestly believe he or she is carrying a gun for defensive purposes. But whether a gun is offensive or defensive depends only on the direction it is pointed; the recent tragic story from Florida where a retired cop killed a father in a movie theater, fearing his life was in danger because of a flying bag of popcorn, should be evidence enough that people are too quick to jump to conclusions in an argument. Classrooms must be protected so students feel free to speak without fear of threats or death at the hands of a fellow student.
Just one student carrying one gun would violate the sanctity of the classroom. If one person decides to come to class every day wearing a sidearm, inevitably others will follow suit. In such an armed camp who would ever feel comfortable bringing up explosive topics for discussion?
Again with the condescension. “A student might honestly believe he or she is carrying a gun for defensive purposes.” You can almost hear Professor Cole shaking his head and saying “in this they are sadly mistaken.” So why are they carrying a gun, then? I bet if we pushed the Prof he’d say something about the gun owners’ feelings of inadequacy and paranoia.
Or, more to the point, their [supposed] emotional volatility. This is the common thread that binds proponents of civilian disarmament. It explains why they’ve replaced the Zimmerman homicide with the “popcorn murder” and the “loud music” shooting as their go-to justifications for banning guns from, well, everywhere.
Gun control advocates can’t grasp the idea that the vast majority of people who own guns do not suddenly “snap” and commit murder. And that the best defense against the ones who do is . . . wait for it . . . a gun. In fact, Professor Cole’s ignorance is ironic. He focuses his “no guns in schools” argument on a sudden loss of control. The spree killers who’ve attacked schools all planned their carnage carefully. There was nothing spontaneous about them.
Those who point to mass shootings as the reason we should all be armed and loaded are living in a comic-book world that denies the complexity of reality. While the threat of an armed lunatic is always present in our open society, the more immediate threat is that an armed person with good intentions, even one with a background in law enforcement, might mistake a round of popcorn for a deadly projectile.
Denial and distortion. Denial that defensive gun uses are an everyday occurrence. Distortion of a risk which, as stated above, is statistically insignificant (I couldn’t find one example of a student losing it during a debate and firing a gun).
Besides, as I’ve pointed out many times before, the right to keep and bear arms does not depend on risk calculation. Although the New Jersey Attorney General counsels the Supreme Court otherwise, Americans don’t have to prove a “justifiable need” to the Powers That Be to exercise their natural, civil and Second Amendment protected gun rights. At least they shouldn’t have to.
We Americans are passionate about our guns, but the simplistic notion that freedom means we must be able to carry a firearm everywhere we go is absurd. Those who say such things demonstrate a shallow understanding of American history. Obviously a gun can be used to destroy free speech just as quickly as it can be used to defend it.
Let’s hope our representatives will simply admit we cannot tolerate loaded guns in the classroom any more than we can tolerate them on an airplane, and urge them to help ensure that the right of free speech at the University of Alaska shall not be infringed.
Not much of an argument is it? The concept of uninfringed gun rights is simplistic, therefore it’s absurd. I suppose one shouldn’t expect a college professor to acknowledge the supremacy of a clear idea expressed economically. But one might expect a professor who wants to encourage debate (albeit by banning guns) to encourage debate – instead of urging politicians to simply admit they’re wrong and drop-kick the Second Amendment.
More than that, I find it hard to believe that a history professor wouldn’t understand the key role the Second Amendment plays in protecting the First Amendment, and the indisputable fact that the safe, gun-free utopia he seeks to defend is nothing more than an intellectual conceit. As Virginia Tech proved, it doesn’t exist.