UAA should remain weapon-free
By Tulsi Patil
Anyone following the Senate Bill 176 firearms debate will know the facts: the provisions in the Alaska Constitution for individual right and freedom to bear arms; the Board of Regents’ policy to not allow guns on university campuses because they can be deemed sensitive risk areas; Senator John Coghill’s introduction of SB 176 to allow students with conceal and carry permits to carry guns and knives on campus; …
I am not going to get into the details of each of the facts of the debate. Every article ever written about the debate, be it a news story or an opinion, contains the facts. I am going to merely discuss, as a student and a member of the community, my opinion regarding why I think it’s a bad idea to allow guns on campus.
University campuses are deeply intricate social arenas. People of all age groups frequent campus on a daily basis. Besides the obvious students, faculty and staff, UAA’s campus also hosts day care facilities and K-12 students who take classes and use the sports facilities. Personally, it makes me uncomfortable having such a high-risk community in the enclosed spaces that a campus entails, with the added risk of firearms and knives.
Security is, of course, the primary concern about allowing students to carry weapons on campus. But this concern is twofold. If SB 176 were passed, students who are over 21 and have a concealed carry permit would be able to carry guns on campus, as well as keep their guns with them in student housing. The rise in the number of guns on campus and all that this might imply is naturally worrying. But the panic and reactionary fear of students who do not have a gun, who as a result, feel less safe on campus, is also a cause of anxiety.
University Police Department Chief Rick Shell shares concerns for security in the event of SB 176 getting passed.
“From an operational standpoint, (if the bill got passed) we would be flooded by calls from people who are not so gun-friendly and fear the presence of guns on campus, in the classrooms and in the dorms (residence halls),” Shell said.
He also said more officers would have to be stationed at high-risk areas like the day care facility and the Alaska Airlines Center where alcohol will be served during sporting events.
College students in general tend to have a high-pressure lifestyle while dealing with academic pressures, stress from work and emotional stress. Adding guns to the mix just seems like a bad idea.
I am not implying that every college student who is stressed out and has a gun handy will misuse it. But it does raise concerns about the potential threat that such legislation could be. The chemistry labs contain hazardous and explosive chemicals. Some student housing areas allow students to keep alcohol in their rooms. There is a high presence of behavior altering drugs on campus. The list of potential dangers goes on and on.
Some proponents of the bill cite examples of schools in Utah and Colorado where students are allowed to carry guns on campus. They claim that if Utah has never had a problem with security and safety despite the presence of guns on campus, then Alaska shouldn’t be too far behind. But I don’t think that such comparisons should be made and fate should be tempted.
While hunting and carrying guns on a regular basis can be a very normal aspect of life for many Alaskans, that does not mean that in high-risk communities like university campuses, we should add such a threat and hope that something won’t go wrong.