The United States has nearly million firearms in the hands of its civilians.
Against vociferous opposition from the state's own university system, a Florida Senate panel last month approved a bill allowing students, faculty and staff with appropriate permits to carry guns on public college campuses. This brings to 10 the number of states that are poised to consider so-called campus carry legislation this year.
Nine currently allow it in some form or another.
This most recent wave of legislation is buoyed by arguments that guns on campus will help address the problem of sexual assault. As the campus carry movement picks up steam nationwide, there is, I would argue, another major concern worth considering -- one that has been wholly omitted thus far: How might guns impact the Guns on campus essay and pedagogical goals of the classroom, and the political mission of the university?
For, it seems clear to me, guns stand opposed to all that. There is something inherently contradictory about guns in college.
They are a rude, unnecessary intrusion from the outside world, and threaten the intimacy and openness that academe hopes to foster. American philosopher John Dewey argued that the classroom is the root of democracy, since it is where individuals learn to talk to people of different backgrounds and perspectives, collaborate, and negotiate differences.
A functioning and vibrant democracy requires that citizens learn to work with one another, which in turn demands openness -- and a willingness to trust. Guns communicate the opposite of all that — they announce, and transmit, suspicion and hostility.
In the humanities where I teachthe seminar room is a designated space for intellectual exploration, and students must feel safe and encouraged to do just that. Controversial ideas are aired, deliberated and contemplated from many angles.
Sometimes these ideas are offensive. Many academics will contend that, at least ideally, classroom debate should be lively, even heated at times.
Emotions may run high. As a case in point, I think of the many uncomfortable discussions following the Ferguson and Staten Island police killings last year. Differing views of what constituted racism -- and especially, whether racism lingered and was still entrenched -- elicited highly personal conversations, sharp comments and campus protest.
In frank discussions, ugliness, racist undertones and deep cultural mistrust were exposed. Honest exchange is the only way forward amid such controversies; different perspectives and experiences, even if they cause resentment in the short run, must be uncovered and understood if we hope to expand the bounds of empathy.
Unpopular views must get a hearing in the classroom. Professors are obligated to foster a setting where students feel comfortable airing their most deep-seated fears and prejudices -- which may not be looked on kindly by others.
Guns in the classroom threaten this dynamic.
Will students feel so safe and free when surrounded by other students who may be, secretly, arms bearers? Will they feel emboldened to take moral and political risks? Will they feel inclined to air potentially offensive views?May 21, · Maggie Hutchinson English Amelia Snellgrove Should Guns be Allowed on College Campus?
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With a bright future ahead, Reema Samaha was an 18 year-old freshman on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. The spread of laws allowing guns on campus is a direct attack on faculty members' rights, writes Firmin DeBrabander.
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