No doubt about it, what happened at Virginia Tech last April was a nightmare. A madman killed 32 people and himself, and that campus will never be the same. Across the country, college presidents and security chiefs have spent considerable time in the summer months considering ways to make our campuses more secure.
Planning to prevent the random acts of madmen is a challenging task. While some new and useful tactics have emerged to improve campus security, some of the ideas floating around make no sense whatsoever.
The most dangerous idea out there right now is a proposal being bandied-about on Virginia’s public university campuses that students should be able to carry concealed weapons on campus. The misguided theory is that if students at Virginia Tech had guns, they could have stopped Seung Hui Cho before he massacred 32 people.
Whether someone could have brought down the madman before he finished his rampage is open to speculation.
Whether students should be allowed to carry guns on campus is not an open question, certainly not here at Trinity. The answer is NO.
Trinity’s policy is clear: no guns or other weapons are permitted on our campus.
Why is prohibition of guns and weapons the only answer? The first answer is in security itself, because far from protecting students and others, a prevalence of weapons would exponentially increase the likelihood that innocent people would suffer great harm. Those who advocate in favor of carrying guns seem to presume that all people who get gun licenses are reasonable and responsible. But the most reasonable person, in a fit of rage, can commit homicide. A person who is scared can make a mistake. A person with evil intent can pass for sane when buying a gun legally.
But well beyond the obvious security answer, a college campus is a place that should have no place for weapons, ever, because violence is the antithesis of higher learning. Our work exalts the ultimate human expressions of reason, which can only flourish fully in a climate of peace and respect for human dignity. We cannot function as true universities in a climate of constant fear, treating each others as suspects, armed and waiting for the next madman to emerge from the group.
Risky business? Sure. We take the risk that our devotion to the peaceful pursuit of learning might seem naive. We take the risk that a deliberate posture of nonviolence is an exposure to the dangerous provocateur who will exploit our openness.
Some risks are worth taking. The risk of living, working and learning on a peaceful, nonviolent campus means that we cannot allow the citizens of the university community to carry guns or other weapons.
We take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks. At Trinity, we spend more than a million dollars annually on campus security, and we are constantly evaluating ways in which we can improve public safety. A few years ago, we moved to an entirely closed campus, requiring all people entering the campus to show identification, to have cars registered, to have reasons for being here. Since we implemented this program, we have had no violent acts on campus.
As we start the new school year, we remind all members of the Trinity community to pay attention to our public safety rules and policies. You can stay abreast of the daily reports and all policies by visiting the Department of Public Safety website.
Let’s take a minute this week to remember our colleagues and friends at Virginia Tech, and to wish them well as they try to start their new year. Let’s pray for those who died and their families. Then let’s get on with the business of higher learning, devoted to finding ways to reduce the prevalence of violence in our society and improve the chances for more people to live in peace.