Campuses demonstrate wisdom


If you’ve ever seen the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story, then you probably remember the main character Ralphie unhappily wearing bunny suit pajamas made by an oblivious aunt. As Ralphie says, “Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.”

Feelings such as these are cropping up in university administrative meetings all over Arkansas. In the wake of a recent legislative decision to allow the concealed carry of firearms on Arkansas’ college campuses, administrators are trying to figure out how they’ll wear this unwanted bunny suit.

A decision last week by the University of Central Arkansas’ Board of Trustees to ban guns from campus reflects a growing consensus among schools statewide. The board voted 5-1 Friday to opt out of the new state law that allows weapons on campus carried by faculty or staff members with a concealed-carry permit. It is the state’s first four-year college to do so.

UCA President Tom Courtway, campus Police Chief Larry James, the staff senate and the faculty senate recommended the action.

Of course there are always those who think they know better. In this instance it was Trustee Kay Hinkle who voted not to opt out, saying she believes law-abiding citizens with a concealed carry permit should be allowed to carry a gun on campus.

“I believe in the Second Amendment and anybody who is a law-abiding citizen who is trained to carry a gun should be able to do so,” Hinkle said. “I think it’s their right to be able to do that. That’s just my opinion. I know I’m in the minority. I can’t live with myself if I don’t express that.”

The unavoidable point Hinkle and her ilk seem to ignore is that having just any old Joe Blow skulking around with a hand cannon doesn’t actually make a campus safer. Joe may have a Second Amendment right to his cannon, but the rest of us have a more important right not to be killed in the crossfire.

As SEARK College officials indicated in their decision to opt out, having gun-wielding citizens on campus has the potential to exacerbate rapidly unfolding, dangerous situations. In short, police arriving on the scene of gun violence don’t need the extra hurdle of having to figure out which armed person is the bad guy. Should the cop guess wrong, Joe Blow could go from would-be hero to shooting victim.

What people like Hinkle and bill sponsor, State Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle (who is a UCA faculty member), seem to miss in their rush to protect individual “rights” is that we all have rightful expectations of safety. Having completed a few hours in a concealed carry permit class does not in any way make one a marksman. Nor does it ensure a level head, valid perspective or common sense when things start to go wrong. Bullets don’t know that the shooter has only good intentions. They just hit who they hit.

Facts being what they are, most people simply do not have the training necessary (i.e. the hundreds of hours of training law enforcement officers complete) in order to control a firearm in the middle of a violent emergency.

As any cop can attest, the first thing to go when one is in a hyper-excited state is fine motor control. Cops have enough training to work within that margin of error. Joe Blow usually doesn’t. As such, the cowboy ethos and hero fantasies need a reality check.

Fortunately — and to their great credit — these two Arkansas schools have gotten the message. The learned people who govern these institutions have thus far resisted this latest reactionary over-correction from the legislature. They have rebuked the deadly bunny suit. We hope other Arkansas campuses will do likewise.