College students bearing guns will serve to ruin education environment

Dr. Bill Seymour
Posted 2/15/17

During the last General Assembly, legislation was passed in Tennessee to allow full-time employees of state colleges to carry a concealed weapon, under certain conditions.

The Tennessee Board of …

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College students bearing guns will serve to ruin education environment

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During the last General Assembly, legislation was passed in Tennessee to allow full-time employees of state colleges to carry a concealed weapon, under certain conditions.

The Tennessee Board of Regents lobbied against this bill. Now, new bills are being reviewed to allow students to carry guns on campus.

It is one thing to provide an opportunity for trusted employees who can be easily regulated to carry a weapon. It is a totally different thing to allow students to have weapons while on campus.

I will speak specifically about Cleveland State Community College.

Our learning environment is one that is built upon trust and respect between instructors and students. A special dynamic needs to be in place to foster excellence in learning. Students with guns will completely change that dynamic. No matter the situation or type of engagement, an employee should never fear that a student might have a gun.

One of the new bills seeks to provide veterans the right to carry a gun on campus. While I certainly have great respect for the service our veterans have provided, their status does not change the need for us as educators to maintain an appropriate learning environment. Frankly, I see this as a “foot in the door” tactic to expand laws permitting guns on campus over time.

While there have certainly been incidents across our country of shootings on college campuses, the truth of the matter is college campuses are statistically very safe. I guarantee you that our campus is. All schools are required to annually report crimes on campus to the TBI and Federal Department of Education. We rarely have anything to report other than a few thefts or an occasional fight.

Cleveland State is one of the best prepared institutions in the state to prevent and respond to critical incidents. We are among the few community colleges in Tennessee to have a police department on our main campus, and we have an excellent relationship with the local police and sheriff’s law enforcement agencies, as well as other agencies.

Cleveland State has used our Law Enforcement Academy to train hundreds of the officers in our region. We also have been proactive in conducting emergency planning on campus in conjunction with local law enforcement, including table-top and mock active shooters situations.

We regularly run emergency preparedness drills with students, faculty and staff. We have also been proactive in installing emergency notification systems to keep all informed in case of an emergency.

In addition to the serious damage such a law could inflict on the educational environment, I am just as concerned for someone other than a perpetrator getting shot or killed if police officers respond to an emergency. When multiple people have guns, how will they determine who is the good or bad guy?

Yes, something could happen at any time. Frankly, it could happen at the mall, your church or at the movie theater. Risks are everywhere, but we don’t let them keep us from living our lives.

A commuter campus like Cleveland State, in my opinion, is no more or less safe than any of these other public locations. However, because we are a state institution we are subject to control by the state.

This should not be a political issue. It should be one based on producing the most effective learning environment to ensure we have the best-educated students and that we produce individuals who can meet the needs of a changing and dynamic workforce.

We have many laws and rights in our country that have limitations based on time and place. Our current laws indicate that schools and colleges are not the right place for students of any age to carry guns. It needs to stay that way.

I anticipate that attempts to pass legislation to provide college students the right to carry guns on campus will be met with significant opposition from the TBR, college administrators, faculty and staff, as well as students.

We teach and serve because we believe we can help change lives for the better, to promote better jobs and careers that strengthen families and communities. This requires a teacher to be open about communicating concerns about academic progress, successes and failures, giving honest and constructive feedback, and even some tough love when needed.

This is what we want good teachers to do. This won’t happen if the teacher fears a student might have a concealed weapon.

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John Garrod

Dr. Seymour’s comments reflect his undoubtedly genuine concern both for the safety of students and for the quality of the academic experience. However, they are steeped in the misinformation and fear culture that are costing lives across this country.

The incidence of shootings that has skyrocketed in the last 10 years have had one common thread that tie most of the crimes together: Most of them have been in “gun-free” zones, including university settings. Criminals do not respect laws. When Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, he showed no more respect for laws banning guns on campus than he did for the more serious law prohibiting murder. Criminals do not respect or esteem laws; that’s part of being a criminal. It’s part of their decision-making process. So thinking that a law is going to stop someone with evil intent from bearing a firearm onto a college campus is a futile and deadly misconception. Conversely, his victims, who abided by the law, were left defenseless when unprovoked violence was visited up on them. It is not the law-abiding, background-checked permit holder that is the danger; it is the untold, undiscovered, and twisted mind that brings destruction and death to the innocent. You have about as much likelihood of being shot by a police officer as you do being shot by permit holder.

Dr. Seymour’s comments about the preparedness of schools to deal with shooters is comforting, but only as long as you ignore realities. It is statistically impossible for any police force, even one that is on-campus like Cleveland State’s fine force, to be able to prevent violence. They can, at best, only respond to incidents already in progress. I have no doubt about their training, but short of having an officer or armed guard present in every classroom, every corner of the library, every hallway, every parking lot, at every moment that students or staff are present, it is impossible to protect the entire body of students and staff. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police department are not even required to protect those they serve. The right to defend one’s self predates the Constitution; the Second Amendment only protects that right, it did not establish it. Yet due to the misinformation and fear promulgated by media and anti-gun groups, that right is being stripped, with deadly results. Consider the case of Dr. Suzanna Hupp, who in 1995 watched helplessly as her parents were gunned down in a restaurant. Dr. Hupp’s personal firearm was in her car because she was obeying the restaurant’s no-guns policy. Hear her words, Dr. Seymour: “Honestly, I don’t view myself as a victim of gun violence,” she said simply. “I view myself as a victim of a maniac who happened to use a gun as a tool, and I view myself as a victim of the legislators at the time who left me defenseless.” Do we have a responsibility to be a victim, Dr. Seymour, just because of someone’s baseless fear of armed citizens? I say no.

Citizens have no responsibility to be victims just because of the fear of others. Permit-holding, law abiding students should be free to exercise their right to self-defense; it has been demonstrated over and over that police forces simply cannot be expected to adequately defend the public from unprovoked violence by people with evil in their hearts. Dr. Seymour, I urge you to reconsider your position. Base your thoughts on realities and practicality, not on misinformation and fear. We are not just students, we are people, and our lives matter more than a political agenda.

Respectfully,

John Garrod

Father/CSCC Student/Veteran/Firearms Instructor

Saturday, February 18

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