The very notion of authorized concealed carry of firearms at MU has triggered quite a controversy since the Missouri House included such a provision as part of its gun owners' rights bill. As one might expect, the exchange of views has run the gamut from reasoned and civil discussion to the usual histrionics.
In a way, I find the opposition to firearms both ironic and saddening, for it illustrates the public’s ever increasing lack of confidence in acceptance of responsibility and respect for law and order. When I was in grammar school, it was not unusual for boys to carry guns to school so they could hunt on their way home. And, as many of us recollect, from the third grade through high school, no boy worth his salt would ever be found without a pocket knife.
This sad state of affairs speaks volumes for a dearth of discipline, common sense and respectful behavior now permeating society. That unique trust we once shared has been breached—possibly beyond repair. We seem to have reached a point where we too often anticipate the worst rather than hope for the best in human nature.
I can understand both sides of the argument: those who believe an armed college campus presents an unnecessary danger versus the Second Amendment advocates who feel just as strongly that concealed carry is a deterrent to armed violence. I have serious doubts of concealed carry on campus becoming law; even if it passes the Senate, the stated opposition from the university president, police chief and governor hardly signals optimism for its coming to pass.
For the record, common sense dictates that we have little to fear from the remote possibility of an armed crazy, like the one who wreaked havoc at Virginia Tech, or from a legally armed and trained individual. The public is far more at risk from an illegally-armed idiot whose intent is robbery, proving his manhood or committing a drive-by shooting. Unlike the licensed concealed carrier, these clowns will be armed, untrained and dangerous.
As stated previously, I understand how reasonable people will differ in their views on this issue. The legislature, governor and university all have responsibilities and obligations to satisfy, particularly in the area of public safety. Nevertheless, I find offensive the knee jerk reactions of selected public officials, the media and citizens in categorizing supporters of concealed carry as macho cowboys, drunken college boys or gun addicts, and the posting of silly analogies and the usual cheap shots at the National Rifle Association.
I will give Rep. Chris Kelly the benefit of the doubt, as even our elected legislators are not immune from thinking before they speak. His flip remark that “college boys who round up 25 opossums while half drunk can do amazingly interesting things with fireworks," is insulting and, hopefully, he regrets stereotyping young and properly licensed adults.
The unfair, but predictable, portrayal of the NRA as all that is wrong with gun ownership is simply a dog that won’t hunt. That organization has always been the vanguard for responsible gun owners, gun safety, education and training. Moreover, the NRA advocates longer prison sentences for those possessing or using a firearm in the commission of a crime—recommendations largely ignored by legislative and judicial bodies.
Admittedly, background checks and training and licensing for concealed carry permits are not foolproof. Likewise, neither is licensing one to operate an automobile, fly an airplane, be a police officer, operate a nuclear reactor or electing one to public office a guarantee of responsible action or judgment. Although the interpretation of the Second Amendment is an anathema to many, it says what it says, and the Supreme Court has so ruled.
Regardless of the outcome of the legislature’s bid to allow concealed carry for licensed individuals on campus, nothing is gained by name calling, cute analogies, predictions of catastrophes or sign-waving protests. The bill will pass or fail—either way, the campus will not run red.
And, for those adamantly opposed to firearms, a gentle reminder: 64,999,987 American gun owners killed no one yesterday, nor today nor will they do so tomorrow.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.