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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Zirpoli: Laws allowing guns on college campuses don't make sense

If you want any more proof that keeping the NRA happy is more important for our politicians than keeping Americans safe, check out the laws pushed through in eight states allowing college students to carry guns on their campuses.

In the most recent example, a campus gun law went into effect in Texas on Aug. 1. Interestingly, this was also the 50th anniversary of the killing of 16 students and staff at the University of Texas, Austin campus, when a student climbed to the top of the campus clock tower and shot a total of 49 students and staff. Unfortunately, a memorial honoring the 16 people killed and the 33 injured was held on the same day that the new gun law went into effect. What were they thinking?

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Students, faculty and staff across colleges and universities in Texas tried to stop the law from going into effect, but their concerns were ignored. So much for local government.

Campus shootings have become common since the Texas slaughter in 1966. We all remember the Virginia Tech University slaughter of 33 people in 2007. Many more such killings have occurred on American campuses and more guns in the hands of students will only make matters worse.

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Those advocating for the NRA are using the false theory that armed students will stop campus killings. According to a 2015 study by the nonprofit Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, crime rates on college campuses increased in Utah and Colorado after students were allowed to have guns on campus, while the student populations dropped.

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As a college professor, I can tell you that the number of students with mental health issues on college campuses has significantly increased over the past decade. A report by Michael Kerr published in Healthline found that one out of every four college students has some form of mental health issue. I believe this number is actually higher and under-reported. Kerr reported that 44 percent of college students show symptoms of depression sometime during their college years and that a high percentage of depressed students consider suicide. Indeed, suicide is the third-highest cause of death in individuals between 15 and 24 years of age. The largest risk factor for following through on suicidal thoughts is the availability of a gun and the majority of these students who kill themselves do it with a gun.

Many college students are taking medication to deal with emotional issues ranging from simple anxiety and depression to other more serious mental health problems such as bi-polar disorder. Combined with serious alcohol and drug abuse issues on our nation's campuses today, allowing these young adults easy access to guns is an invitation for disaster and places all college students and staff at risk.

Again, the overwhelming majority of college administrators, professors, students and staff are opposed to having guns on their campuses, even in Texas, and for good reason. We see the issues first-hand. Simple roommate disagreements, boyfriend and girlfriend jealousies, and disputes with professors about grades and assignments, will now be potential disasters as we add weapons to a volatile mix of immaturity, alcohol, drugs, and stress.

Meanwhile, the legislators who voted for these new laws will not allow guns in their Senate or House legislative chambers or offices. While they are not crazy enough to allow guns in their workplace, they are irresponsible enough to put our college students in danger.

Allowing college students to bring weapons to their campuses is simply a nod to the NRA and is right up there, in my opinion, with supporting the "rights" of suspected terrorists to purchase guns and assault rifles.

How do they sleep at night?

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is the Laurence J. Adams Distinguished Chair in Special Education at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.


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