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UW-Stevens Point instructor: guns on campus "a catastrophically bad idea"

Guest post by Nancy Shefferly, UW-Stevens Point Biology Instructor and member of the UW-Stevens Point Academic Representation Council, AFT local 6505

As an educator, I can only view the prospect of allowing firearms on a college campus as a catastrophically bad idea.

First, the presence of guns will impede education. The free exchange of ideas and exploration of hot-button issues in classrooms is an essential tool for achieving the educational mission of UW-Stevens Point. The prospect that any individual might be armed will put a damper on this necessary part of our educational curriculum by introducing an undercurrent of fear. Nobody wants to disagree with somebody carrying a gun.

Second, the presence of guns will reduce safety. Research has shown that in the late teens and early twenties, our brain development is not complete. The ability to connect cause and effect and to control impulses is not fully developed until well into our twenties. This makes college students potentially more emotionally volatile and vulnerable in ways that older adults are not. And when you factor in the presence of alcohol and drugs, the presence of unknown numbers of improperly secured firearms on campus would increase the potential for student homicides and suicides.

Finally, legalizing the possession of firearms on campus will inhibit our ability to identify and respond to safety threats. Under the current restrictive system, should I catch a glimpse of a gun of any sort in the possession of somebody other than a law enforcement officer, I know immediately that there is a problem, and I know exactly what to do to help keep my students and myself safe. How would I be expected to respond to the sight of a gun if the proposed legislation passes? In my dithering over whether or not a particular gun is in the possession of somebody who means harm, valuable response time would be lost. And what if I were to make the wrong call altogether? I would be culpable of either allowing a shooting, or of harassing a law-abiding citizen. Allowing firearms on campus would unnecessarily muddy the waters surrounding how to appropriately respond to guns.

When I hear proposals like this one, I can’t help but think how little people understand the pressures of teaching in the University environment. As instructors, we try to nurture our students, and encourage them to expand and improve their knowledge and understanding. That’s the fun part of the job. But we also have to evaluate how well they are meeting the goals we set for them. That’s less fun, and it is often accompanied by pain. In a university, emotionally intense situations are more frequent than in most other environments—disagreements over grades, politically charged arguments, and romantic entanglements, to name just a few. Bringing guns onto our campuses and into our academic buildings would turn every intense situation into a potentially deadly one. While Representative Kramer, who introduced this bill, might think that “more bullets flying” will make our college campuses safer, I can assure him that it will not.  This proposal will only lead to more tragedies for UW System students and educators.

The opinions expressed in this post are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer.

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