TOE-TO-TOE: GUNS ON CAMPUS

Bearing arms is an AK state right

By Calvin Henry
The hysteria raised by the firearms debate makes logically arguing the subject a very challenging and elusive task. It is hard to find factual data regarding how many people are killed every year due to firearms. Finding such data is heavily biased, depending on who is reporting the numbers. It is also simple to launch an emotionally driven argument, either arguing that every member of society has a right to defend themselves, or that allowing that many firearms in society just fosters violence and mishaps that result in death. We have all seen these arguments, from both sides. This is why logically arguing such a subject is near impossible. There is no right or wrong answer to the debate. Either decision that is made will be a political decision based on interpretation.

The Alaska State Constitution does, however, answer the question of whether or not firearms should be allowed on campus. Article I section XIX states:

“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The individual right to keep and bear arms shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State.” 

There is little room left in the second sentence to interpret the Constitution, the intention is very clear. Since the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents is a political subdivision, I find it hard to accept that there is even debate over legislation. The university does not have the authority to restrict firearms on campus — there is no political argument to be had. Any legislation that is passed will be meaningless and hollow, because it will be an attempt to supersede the Alaska Constitution.

If I had to choose a side, I would side with the State Constitution.

That being said, I think it is more than clear that the university is obligated to become compliant. If this is not agreeable, then we as a society must then debate on whether or not to amend the constitution. This is another debate, though.

I believe that if we are to maintain our republic we must abide by the rules — that is, constitution — that have been established to help ensure good governance. If we begin overlooking sections that we disagree with, we will degrade ourselves and the society.

Both sides of the firearms debate are passionate and both have reasonable arguments. The fact of the matter is, though, that while our state constitution remains, we are not permitted to grant the Board of Regents the authority they wish to wield. It is our civic responsibility to oppose any unjust laws that are created and to demand repeal.

Any legislation that is passed relating to this matter is unjust. Allowing the Board of Regents to continue creating policy that directly defies our state constitution is even more unjust.

As a university student majoring in political science, I am deeply saddened to know that the individuals who were appointed to positions of power have lost sight of our republican form of government. How is it possible that an academic institution would so willingly cast aside the state constitution to satisfy its personal appetites?

There is a process to amending the constitution. One cannot simply ignore the parts they do not like.

Calvin Henry is a sophomore at UAA majoring in political science with a concentration in American government.

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.

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