Arming Faculty is Nonsense


I knew this would happen.  I knew that someone would come up with some outrageous proposal to prevent the next multiple shooting, like the one at Virginia Tech.  And I knew that it would involve guns in some way.  University Regent Stavros Anthony has proposed that all faculty members and staff undergo “peace officer” training so that they would be able to carry a gun when they come to class.  Of course, it would be voluntary.

Like all of those with similar ideas, Anthony invokes the classical “deterrence” argument.  He stated that: “One of the problems with these mass shootings is that nobody else has a weapon to defend themselves.  If they (gunmen) know there are folks around trained to use a firearm and can defend themselves, maybe they’ll think twice before coming on campus.” 

Well, maybe they will and maybe they won’t.  And that is the major problem with this argument.

This is a simple solution to a complex problem.  It is also a non-solution that will never work.  In a word, it is nonsense. 


The deterrence argument Anthony uses is a favorite one among the conservative faithful.  The cause of crime is simple to them.  People just choose to commit a crime because they think they can get away with it.  People are “rational” beings who weigh the possible consequences of their proposed crime.  They seek to maximize gain and minimize costs.  It is the bedrock of our entire criminal justice system. 


For the most part, this bedrock is shaky at best.  The deterrence argument ignores something very important: not everyone is rational all the time.  Even among the law-abiding, we sometimes don’t rationally plan our actions. 


If this is the case among so-called “normal” people, imagine how it applies to the “abnormal” amongst us?

If we follow the logic being used here, why not arm postal workers, people who work at shopping malls (and shoppers too), public school teachers, subway and bus riders and anywhere else where some crazy person might open fire? 

Even if every faculty member wore a gun on his or her belt, how would that stop a crazed gunman?  Imagine the scenario where someone this crazy walked into a classroom and started firing without warning.

What this conjures up is little more than a “police state” - something neither I nor anyone else would want.  Do you want to live in a society where just about everyone is carrying a gun in plain sight?

My fellow faculty members seem to agree.  UNLV faculty members were asked to comment on the Anthony proposal.  Here are some responses:

ü      I am definitely against the proposal to arm employees regardless of the level of training afforded. Everyone that I have talked to, students and faculty agree. I fear Regent Anthony has fallen prey to the over reaction that too often accompanies such tragedies as those that have occurred at V. Tech. Make no mistake, it is but a slightly more palatable form of the vigilante mentality and carries with it all of the dangers inherent therein.

ü      I am very much against this!!  I feel that it is inappropriate on a college campus and I would definitely feel less safe if this were to happen.

ü      But this proposal simply seems like a real backwards (flat-out reactionary) way of addressing a larger social problem. Guns just don't belong on campus. Period

ü      If I wanted police training or to carry a gun I would have opted for a different job.  Knowing that university faculty and staff carry guns will make me feel unsafe rather than safe.  This response is a classic example of giving into emotions over intellect/reason.  That puts us on the same wavelength as the gunman.


There were a few rather sarcastic statements, such as:

ü      A teacher (in academic robes, armed with a gun) is looking menacingly at a student, who sits before him at a desk in a classroom. The bubble over the teacher's head says, “Feeling lucky, pal?” T-shirt possibilities for the conscientious objector crowd: Grades are more powerful than guns. All seriousness aside, the questions are endless: Will gun racks fit in the back of a teacher’s Prius? Should we set up a gun rack in the department? Would we have to disclose the make and model of our guns on the syllabus, or will a brief mention on the department Web site suffice? Will “hotties” be replaced with a new category called “gunnies,” perhaps? 

ü      What about staff who are unhappy with their evaluations.

Let us hope that logic prevails.