Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guns On Campus

"Stupidity carried beyond a certain point becomes a public menace."
-- Ezra Pound (In letter to Lascelles Abercrombie)

The Idaho House, in their infinite "wisdom," passed legislation today that would prevent state universities from banning or otherwise regulating the carrying of guns on campuses. This after university officials offered their grave concerns about such legislation, including two former members of the Idaho House Kent Kunz and Bruce Newcomb who now work for Idaho State University and Boise State University, respectively.

Clearly, the Idaho Legislature is operating on their own personal and mislead political beliefs or convoluted values this session and are not going to listen to their constituents regardless of how loudly opposed those constituents may be. Objections from Idaho residents to the education reform bills fell on deaf ears. It appears that the concerns of Idaho residents in regard to Medicaid cuts did little but take out the most extreme measures written into the bill. Unnecessary legislation masquerading as a bill to protect kids from online predators and from encountering pornography on their public library computers passed easily thus infringing on the first amendment rights of library patrons across the state. And, here again with the campus guns legislation, loud voices of opposition testified to the legislature and their voices were ignored. Add to this dangerous nullification efforts, anti-union bills, and attempts to protect the conscience of health care providers who should be first doing no harm and it has been one damaging legislative session.

Rep. Ken Roberts said during debate on the campus guns bill: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know about you, but I want to live in a country and a state where the citizens are armed. This legislation is legislation that's about protecting the very rights that made America free.” I don't know where Ken Roberts acquired his knowledge of American history, but my understanding of what made America free has nothing to do with guns and carrying them at public institutions like college campuses. Last I checked, it started out about representation, specifically taxation without representation. Maybe Rep. Roberts and his colleagues who voted in favor of allowing college students and members of the public to freely carry guns on campuses across the state should think long and hard about what kind of representation they're actually providing the people of Idaho.

I've spoken about gun control measures here before, but the reason I opposed this legislation has very little to do with whether or not I think people should be allowed to own hand guns. I grew up in a time when school shootings were constantly in the news. The spring before I started high school, two heavily armed young men walked into their Colorado high school and opened fire on their classmates and teachers--what was at the time the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. While I was in college, a troubled young man at a university across the country in Virginia went on a rampage killing 32 college students and professors. Having guns on their person or having access to guns on campus would not have made either of these two shootings any less devastating. And like in Tuscon, who is to say that those who had access to guns would have gone after the correct assailant?

It's time for the legislature to go home. Whatever budget crisis we are in, the crises they are creating on other fronts by dismantling the state's Medicaid system, K-12 public education system, and municipal and county government authority are becoming far more dangerous than any budget crisis ever will be. More and more I believe the GOP members of the Idaho Legislature are a public menace, the guns on campuses bill just further proof.

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