Predictably, the Republican-controlled Senate voted today to allow people to carry concealed weapons on Montana college campuses, despite opposition from the Board of Regents, college faculty members, law enforcement, and Republican Senator Duane Ankney, who noted that more guns on campus will make shooting situations even more dangerous when the police arrive.
The timing of the vote, which still requires passage in a third read through the Senate, came at a the perfect moment, as the Idaho Statesman reported yesterday that the cost of a concealed carry bill on Idaho campuses cost the state $3.7 million:
Five of Idaho’s universities and community colleges have spent more than $1.5 million to beef up security after the law allowing concealed weapons on campuses was approved, and the schools expect total costs to top $3.7 million for the year. The schools likely will have to absorb the cost from existing funds.
At the time of its passage, Idaho legislators argued that the bill would have minimal costs. And, predictably, the fiscal note for the bill in Montana says there will be no cost to our state. Given the experience of Idaho, that seems an untenable position to maintain.
The bill also raises serious constitutional questions. As the legal note for the bill explains, the Montana Constitution establishes that “The government and control of the Montana university system is vested in a board of regents of higher education which shall have full power, responsibility, and authority to supervise, coordinate, manage and control the Montana university system and shall supervise and coordinate other public educational institutions assigned by law.” The proponents’ position depends on absolutist reading of the Second Amendment rooted in the belief that it can’t tolerate any regulation, a position never held by any court in the country, a position undermined by the existing regulation of guns on Montana campuses as well.
Worst of all, the proposal will make campuses less safe for students. Proponents argue, as did Senator Kris Hansen, that women will be able to use guns to defend themselves on dark campuses or that more guns will prevent “massacres” on campus by deranged gunmen. It’s just not true, as study after study demonstrates. Slate Magazine summarizes this research:
Moving from state-level analysis to the household or individual, the risks for gun owners become even more apparent. A recent meta-analysis of 16 studies examined the relationship between firearms and gun deaths. Gun ownership doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk of suicide.
When you take the already occasionally potent mixture of young people experiencing some of their first real freedom and the easy availability of intoxicating substances, the last thing that needs to be added is easier access to weapons.
Gun advocates argue that even if all of this is true, the presence of guns will save lives, because of defensive gun use, yet another conservative myth fed by terrible research methodology that actually defies statistical logic. Gun owners may want to believe that their guns have warded off criminals, may want to believe that they’ve prevented millions of crimes, but the truth is that defensive gun use is so rare as to be statistically insignificant. Thus far in 2015? About 134 cases of verified defensive gun use which goes along with a generous guess of about 3,000 cases a year.
Increased access to guns on campus may give some the sense they are more secure, because their fears about the threat of violence have been stoked unreasonably by the gun lobby who has simultaneously convinced them that guns are safe to own, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And this is the fundamental insanity of the gundamentalist agenda: its adherents oppose every law that would impose any reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, sales, and use–and then turn around and argue that we need more guns to keep people safe from the very guns they’ve encouraged ownership and use of. In short, they increase gun violence, and then used that violence to justify the presence of more guns.
Isn’t it time we stop writing gun policy to indulge the fantasies of wannabe heroes who stoke our fears about the very violence they encourage? Who ignore law enforcement and education officials who beg them not put more people at risk? Who denigrate the work of security offices and their personnel so they can carry their guns in one more place?
Hopefully, the Montana Senate will do just that on its third read of this bad, broken bill–and put the safety of Montana students ahead of these zealots. Let the Senate know that they can buck the gun lobby and do what’s right.